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Full text of "The problem of life, or, Religion and society in Germany /"

THE 



PROBLEM OF LIFE, 

OR 

RELIGION AND SOCIETY 
IN GERMANY. 

33 Y 

HENRY W. CARSTENS, 



BOSTON AND CAMBRIDGE: 
JAMES MUNROE AND COMPANY. 
1 8 5 8. 



Entered according to the act of Congress, in the year 1858, 

Br Henry W. Carstens, 
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts. 



HENRY J. HOWLAND, PRINTER, WORCESTER. 



THE PEOBLEM OF LIFE. 



CHAPTER, I. 

GENERAL REMARKS ON RELIGION. 

Among the many treasures which the German 
literature offers to us, there is one which has always 
been particularly attractive to me — a drama, called 
Nathan the Sage, written by the celebrated Lessing. 
The principal characters in this piece are three good 
men ; Sultan Saladin, a Mohammedan, Nathan, a Jew, 
and a young Temple-Knight, a Christian. 

Lessing not only reminds us by the whole piece in 
general, of the fact that there are good men to be 
found among the adherents of all the different creeds ; 
he also gives us his opinion about these creeds them- 
selves, and their relative value. The 3d act contains 
a dialogue between Saladin and Nathan, where the 
former asks the latter which religion he thinks is 
the best? Nathan answers the question by the fol- 
lowing story. 

Many centuries ago, there lived in the East a man 
who possessed a ring of an inestimable value. It 



4 THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 

was adorned with a precious stone, which glittered 
with a hundred beautiful colors, and had the hidden 
power of making acceptable before God and man 
whoever wore it, with the belief that it would do so. 
No wonder, therefore, that the man never left it off 
his finger, and that he made arrangements which 
would be likely to keep it forever in his family. He 
left the ring to the most beloved of his sons, and 
ordained that this son, in his turn, should bequeath 
it to the one he liked best among his sons, and thus 
in succession, the most beloved always should become 
the chief, the head of the family, alone by virtue of 
the ring. 

Thus the ring devolved, from son to son, at last 
on one who was father of three sons, all of whom 
were equally obedient to him, and whom he, there- 
fore, could not help loving equally. Yet from time 
to time, now the one, then the other, and then the 
third, seemed to him to be most worthy of the ring, 
just as each was alone with him, and as the other two 
did not share in the overflowings of his heart. He had 
the tender weakness to promise the ring to each of 
them. 

This would do as long as things went their even 
course ; but the time of death arrived, and the father 
was placed in a great dilemma. It would have 
grieved him to disappoint two of his sons who de- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 5 

pended upon his word. What was he to do? He 
secretly sends for an artist, and orders, after the pat- 
tern of his ring, two other ones, and desires that 
neither expense nor pains should he spared to make 
them perfectly like the former. The artist succeeds. 
As he hrings them, the father himself cannot distin- 
guish the original ring. Full of joy he calls his 
sons, each separately ; he gives to each separately 
his "blessing and his ring, and — dies. 

Hardly has the father died, when each son comes 
with his ring, and desires to be the chief of the fam- 
ily. They make inquiries, they quarrel, they com- 
plain of each other. All is in vain ; they cannot prove 
which ring is the right one, as little as we now, which 
faith is the right one. 

The sons went to law, and each swore before the 
judge that he had received his ring directly from his 
father's hand — which was true — after having been 
promised long ago, that he, one of these- days, should 
enjoy the prerogative of the ring — which was no less 
true ! Each one asserted that his father could not 
have been faithless towards him, and rather than to 
allow such a thing to be suspected of so dear a father, 
he would be obliged to accuse his brothers of foul play, 
however willing he otherwise might be to think the 
best of them ; however, he would know how to unmask 
the traitors, and how to take vengeance on them. 



6 



THE PROBLEM OP LIFE, OR 



The Judge said : " If you do not soon bring your 
father before me, I shall send you away from my 
tribunal. Do you think I am here to solve riddles ? 
Or do you expect the right ring to speak? But stop! 
I understand that the right ring possesses the mirac- 
ulous power of making any one beloved, acceptable 
before God and men. This must decide, for the false 
rings will not be able to do that ! Now, whom is it 
that two of you like best ? Make haste, tell me ! 
What, you are silent ? Have the rings only an influ- 
ence upon their owners, and not upon others ? Does 
each of you love himself the most ? Oh, then you 
are all three deceived deceivers ! Not one of the 
three rings is genuine. The original ring probably 
was lost. In order to conceal the loss, and to make 
up for it, the father had three rings made instead of 
one. And therefore," continued the Judge, " unless 
you wish for my counsel instead of my verdict, I bid 
you, be gone ! My advice, however, is this ; take the 
affair exactly as it is. If each of you has received 
his ring from his father, then let each one firmly be- 
lieve that his ring is the genuine one. It is possible 
that the father intended no longer to tolerate in his 
family the tyranny of that one ring ! And I am 
sure he loved you all three, loved you equally, and 
did not wish to oppress two of you for the sake of 
favoring one." 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



7 



" Well then, let each of you strive for being loved, 
unbiased, free of all prejudice ! Let each one rival 
with the others in endeavoring to bring to light the 
power of the stone in his ring ; let him aid this pow- 
er by meekness, by heart-felt tolerance, by charity, 
by a confiding reliance upon his God. And if the 
power of the stones should become apparent among 
the children of your children's children, then I will 
summon them again before my chair, thousands of 
thousand years hence. Then a man, wiser than I, 
will sit on this chair, and will pronounce judgment. 
Go now I" Thus spoke the modest judge. 

This story, necessarily, must lose a great deal of 
its beauty by being translated into another language, 
by being deprived of its poetical form, and severed 
from the remainder of the drama. Those of my 
readers who have seen it, or can enjoy it in the origi- 
nal, will be likely to compare my version of it to a 
diamond, which has lost a great deal of its splendor 
by having its polished surface tarnished and broken, 
and by being taken out of a diadem whose principal 
ornament it was. Still, I doubt not the story, even 
thus, appears to the reader exceedingly beautiful. I 
have read it repeatedly, and have always found new 
attractions in it. 

There is only one instance, it seems to me, where 
the essence of religion is so clearly pointed out, and 



8 



THE PROBLEM OF LTFE, OR 



so accurately defined, as in this story. I mean the 
words of Christ : " Love the Lord thy God, with all 
thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, 
and with all thy mind : and thy neighbor as thyself." 
These words are so sublime in their simplicity and 
comprehensiveness, that we cannot conceive of any- 
thing so impressive as they are to a mind fully im- 
bued with the spirit of Christianity. But as we are 
not all so easily moved by a few words, and as we 
are all in need of having our feelings awakened and 
developed by human and terrestial affairs, events and 
impressions, it is well for us at different times to 
have the same truth conveyed to our minds in differ- 
ent ways, and for this reason I like to consider Les- 
sing's story, as a worthy illustration and corollary of 
Christ's all-comprehending, simple words. Since the 
contemplation of this story leads me most directly 
to the object I have in view, I will give a few reasons 
why I consider it so beautiful. 

First, it expresses symbolically the idea, that no 
human being knows or possesses truth in the abstract, 
or, as we may call it, " the true religion." 

I will not, here in the beginning, shock any one's 
feelings by misleading him to think that I doubt 
whether Christianity is the true religion. No, I be- 
lieve that the essence of Christianity is true, but it 
is doubtful to me whether there is any sect or de- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



g 



nomination in existence, which has not added some- 
thing human, perishable and erroneous, to the simple 
christian truth. And even if we divest the latter of 
all erroneous additions, even then we are not allowed 
to think we possess truth in the abstract. Man, from 
his very nature as a finite being, never can compre- 
hend abstract, infinite truth. For instance, man can 
never comprehend the essence of the Deity. There 
may be many who believe they have the right idea 
of God, who He is and what He is, but they substitute 
a fancy, a semblance for the reality ; they have not 
the power of thinking, free from the influence of im- 
bibed and current impressions. 

Any one who has learned to seek God, to seek God 
himself, not through the medium of accepted creeds, 
but in his own soul, and in the universe around him, 
he truly finds God ; his belief in the existence of 
the divine being is better founded, more ennobling, 
more fructifying than the current belief, which is 
merely transmitted from man to man. Still, the 
more his mind is confirmed in the belief in God, and 
the more his heart is filled with holy adoration of 
God, the more he will be convinced of never being 
able to comprehend the essence of the Deity, to com- 
prehend that spirit which manifests itself in the uni- 
verse and in man's soul, as infinite in power, wisdom 
and love. 



10 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



Further, we cannot arrive at the abstract truth 
concerning the universe. We never can comprehend 
the infinitude of space. If space is a reality, meas- 
urement must he a reality, and both, in fact, seem to 
us to he real ; we cannot consider these ideas as mere 
fancies, since our senses prove them to us as facts. 
Still we cannot reconcile the ideas of space and infin- 
itude, because we cannot fathom the idea of going 
on measuring space without an end. What is there 
beyond the remotest nebula which we discover through 
the telescope, or which we imagine to see with our 
mind's eye ? Empty space ? What is empty space ? 
What is empty space without limits ? I am sure, no 
human being ever will answer these questions. Space 
and infinitude are two ideas which a human mind 
cannot reconcile to each other. Still, the mind can- 
not divest itself of either of these two ideas, and 
must, therefore, acknowledge that there is something 
which is beyond his comprehension. 

The same is true in regard to infinitude of time. 
Generation after generation, everybody talks of God 
as an eternal being, of man's soul as an immortal 
and eternal spirit — they speak of it, as of the sim- 
plest thing, as if they understood all about it — and 
still, as soon as one really investigates these ideas of 
eternity and immortality, he will be obliged to con- 
fess that he cannot fathom them. Time is an idea 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



11 



of which we cannot divest ourselves, and yet, the 
expression " infinite time " has no comprehensible 
meaning in it. We cannot comprehend what it 
means, " God never had a beginning." We cannot 
comprehend that the world could have been created 
out of nothing a definite number of years ago, and 
that God should have existed before the world, alone 
and from eternity. We cannot comprehend how the 
divine spirit, or any spirit, should exist entirely dis- 
connected from matter. 

On the other hand, if we consider the material 
world as co-existing with the Deity, and therefore as 
eternal, we have no more a definite idea of a world 
without a beginning, than of a Deity without a be- 
ginning. And if we turn to the future, we find the 
same difficulty. We may count ever so far by years 
or by millions of years, we never come nearer the 
end of time ; we cannot „find an end, and still we 
cannot comprehend what it means, " there is no end." 
Of the idea of time which is forced upon us by our 
senses, we cannot rid ourselves, but we cannot recon- 
cile the word " infinite" to it, and therefore no man 
can ever comprehend the meaning of the word eter- 
nity. 

But we need not lose ourselves in the labyrinth of 
these vast ideas, in order to be convinced that we 
never can arrive at abstract truth. 



12 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



If we study geology, and try to investigate what 
lias been the original shape and condition of the 
earth ; how many and how long periods of develop- 
ment this globe has gone through ; how the revolu- 
tions it was subject to, were brought about, and how 
they terminated ; what will be the next change the 
earth will undergo ; what is the tendency and the 
final destiny of this and of other planets, — if we inves- 
tigate these and many other similar and connected 
subjects, we shall get delightful glimpses, so to say, 
into the workshop of the Almighty ; we shall be 
filled with wonder and awe, and shall bow down in 
adoration before the Creator ; but we shall have to 
confess that we only try to follow his footprints, but 
can never hope fully to trace whither he tends, and 
what aim he will finally reach. 

If we study mineralogy, we can notice and admire 
the laws of crystallization and other similar objects, 
but we never shall be able to find out why these 
things are as they are, and what their essence is. 

If we study botany, it will reveal to us the wonders 
of vegetation ; we shall be enraptured by the beauty 
and variety, and the many thousand combinations 
of shape and color; we shall admire the wondrous 
mode of propagation, the numerical, and, so to say, 
artistic regularity upon which the classification de- 
pends — all tliis . anH many other observations will 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 13 



convince us that the Creator is a most powerful and 
benevolent being, — but after all, we cannot really 
comprehend much about it. We do not know whether 
all those plants originated according to invariable 
laws, or whether each species was created by an in- 
dependent, momentary will and act of the Creator ; 
we do not know why there is such a profusion of va- 
riety and of beauty; what is the use and destination 
of each species and of each individual plant. There 
is evidently a higher purpose in them, than merely 
to be " of use to man and beast," or even " to glad- 
den man's heart." But this and many other things 
concerning the vegetable kingdom, man never will 
fully comprehend. 

The same remark is applicable to the study of 
zoology. If we closely observe and study all the 
various kinds of animals around us, we find that an 
inexhaustible source of delight and admiration i3 
opened to us, and that here, even more beautifully 
than in vegetable life, the evidences of the Creator's 
power, wisdom and benevolence are laid open before 
us. If we watch the birds, what a joyous, privileged 
race do they seem to be ! How they seem to enjoy 
their own singing ; for if they did not, they would 
not repeat the same few sounds day after day, thous- 
ands of times ! How gracefully and lightly they 
move about, flitting through the air, an element in 



14 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



which man has only learned clumsily, rarely and im- 
perfectly to move by the means of a balloon ! Really, 
I have often wondered why the Creator had endowed 
the birds almost exclusively with the capacity and 
facility of choosing, for the winter and for the sum- 
mer, a congenial climate ; why He, on the whole, be- 
stowed so much of his bounteous care just on the 
birds. I have often thought, if I did not rejoice in 
being a man, I should like to be a bird. 

Then if we watch the multitude of insects, how won- 
drous do they appear ! If we had never noticed 
anything about them, except, for instance, a spider 
weaving his net in the field, this alone would be 
enough to fill our minds with wonder. But now, 
though we learn all these facts, and though this 
knowledge has a very salutary influence upon us, 
what do we really know about most of the animals? 
Nothing but their existence, their appearances, changes, 
&c. Why they are what and as they are, and how 
they happened to be so, about all this we know ab- 
solutely nothing. 

Many a time have I tried to penetrate to the foun- 
dation of important facts and of trifles ; for instance, 
how do birds know, long before winter or summer 
really approaches, that they have to go either north 
or south, and how do they know in what direction 
they have to travel? How does the spider know 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 15 



beforehand whether the weather will be good or not> 
so as to make it advisable to weave either a large 
and substantial, or a small and imperfect net ? Why- 
has this butterfly just these beautiful spots and de- 
signs on its wings? Why has that bug just such a 
horn on its head ? Why is there so great a variety 
of species of animals, and why do just those exist 
that do exist ? What is their destiny ? All such 
questions allude to things which we never can com- 
prehend. All we know consists in phenomena, in 
facts, perhaps in facts so invariably repeated and 
established, that we allow ourselves to call their order 
and routine, natural laws. But the essence and the 
foundation of these phenomena and laws we never 
can comprehend. 

Much less than these can we hope ever fully to 
understand what we call imponderable agents : heat, 
light, electricity, magnetism, gravitation, &c. I think 
there is an infinite charm in trying to become ac- 
quainted with the phenomena produced by these 
powers, in trying to trace and to establish the laws 
upon which they act, and in making them servicea- 
ble to man's will and purposes. Still here again, 
these agents themselves, their origin, essence, vitality 
and destiny are beyond our comprehension. 

As much, or perhaps more mysterious than all I have 
as far as now alluded to, is the power which produces 



16 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



the phenomena we learn and apply in chemistry. 
"What is the way in which two or more simple sub- 
stances form a new chemical compound ? What real 
meaning can we attach to the theory of atoms ? 
"Why do some substances chemically attract, and why 
do others repel each other? Why do some substances 
combine in the proportion of one to eight, and others 
in other proportions? The facts are known, but these 
questions concerning their origin, &c, will never be 
solved by man. 

Quite as wonderful and mysterious as anything I 
have mentioned, is to us our own self. If we study 
anthropology and the physiology of man, we meet 
with more enrapturing proofs of God's wisdom, power 
and goodness, than in the study of zoology ; but at 
the same time with more perplexing and irresolulle 
questions. Not only are the origin, propagation and 
development of man as a corporal being meie facts 
to us, ^explained in their essence, but ev< n less 
than these can we comprehend a host of singularities. 
Who can, for instance, explain the resemblance we 
find in the faces of different individuals, and on the 
other hand the almost total absence of a real, perfect 
likeness between any two faces? the origin and de- 
velopment of cutaneous and many other diseases? 
the circumstance that the hands and feet of the mem- 
bers and generations of some families have six fin- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



17 



gers and six toes ; the existence of moles and other 
peculiarities of that kind ? 

If we contemplate man as a rational being, and 
enter into the labyrinth of psychology, perplexing 
questions crowd in upon us from all sides. First, we 
can arrive at the certainty that we have a soul, a 
mind, a spirit ; but the essence of this being we can- 
not comprehend in the least. We cannot even form 
a definite idea of its qualities and functions. How 
is it that our mind remembers anything ? Why is 
the memory of some persons quick, that of others 
tenacious ? Why do we sometimes suddenly and in- 
voluntarily remember a thing, which shortly before 
we were entirely unable to recall? Why are some 
persons entirely destitute of musical talent, though 
their physical ear seems to be as perfect as that of 
any great musician ? 

When is a child's mind so far developed that we 
can say " this is the moment when the chr 1 begins 
to be a rational being ?' ; Is man an accountable 
being as soon as he is to be considered a rational 
being? If not, when does his accountability begin? 
What becomes of a person's mind in second child- 
hood? What is the origin of madness and what is 
madness in itself? What influence does it have on 
man's rational and moral worth, and on his rights 
and duties in his relations to his fellow-men, to the 
2 



18 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



universe, and to its God ? What is the nature of 
the process of falling asleep and of awaking? 
What is sleep itself and the state of the soul during 
sleep ? What are dreams and what is their connec- 
tion with man's character and destiny ? In what 
way is our soul connected with our body, and what is 
the essence of the influence it exerts on the latter ? 
How far is the body under the control of the mind ? 
Where is the exact boundary line between the mind's 
activeness and passiveness, and consequently the 
boundary between man's accountability and unac- 
countableness ? What is the nature of the separa- 
tion of body and mind, and its effects on the latter ? 
What is really the destiny of any individual as well 
as of the whole human race ? Why was there ever 
such an episode in the history and development of 
the human race, as that, for instance, which Lamar- 
tine so forcibly and vividly details to us in his his- 
tory " des Girondins "? Why did God create just 
such an incomprehensible compound of matter and 
of spirit, as man on investigation proves to be ? 

I might add more such questions, but I suppose 
those expressed are sufficient to prove what I wished 
to establish, as an important truth, viz., that any 
one who tries thoroughly to investigate the physical 
and spiritual world, will find that there are many, 
many things which he has to acknowledge as facts, 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 19 



but which he cannot fully comprehend. Perhaps 
there are many persons who have some answers ready, 
which, as they think, settle some of the above matters 
very satisfactorily, but it is my conviction that their 
answers will only satisfy those persons who believe 
they think, but do not think. 

This may seem a paradox to many, but real think- 
ers will appreciate this remark. The world, in this 
respect, is the same now as it was at the time of So- 
crates. Eeal thinkers only can reach that state of 
rational and moral circumspection, which leads them 
to declare that they love and seek the truth, (that 
they are philosophers,) but that there are many, many 
things which are beyond their comprehension. 

There are persons, (and this class of men is very 
large,) who believe themselves to be thinkers, but 
who are no thinkers in reality. And these persons 
are always in danger of believing things which are 
not beyond their comprehension, but against their con- 
viction, against common sense. Their minds are far 
enough developed to receive ideas, and often they 
really understand these ideas ; but mistaking the 
mental function of understanding for comprehending, 
they believe they do comprehend, where they only un- 
derstand. That is, they have some vague idea, or 
even a clear perception of the literal meaning of the 
words they hear or read, but they have not the fac- 



20 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



ulty within themselves, independently to investigate 
whether the idea they receive, is true or not. They 
have some preconceived riotions which they have im- 
bibed by education, by tradition, or by other external 
influences, unwillingly and unwittingly. Everything 
that agrees with these preconceived notions, they 
consider as true, everything that comes in collision 
with them, as false. But whether those precon- 
ceived notions are true or false, whether, therefore, 
this standard of their's, of truth and falsehood, is a 
reliable and infallible guide — this they have never 
investigated. Thus they believe they think, but 
really do not think themselves ; we might say, it is 
only their authority — their living or departed guide — 
that thinks through them. 

We may here mention that this fact is the reason 
why error is so easily propagated ; this fact explains 
the existence of so much falsehood and wrong, of so 
many lamentable and prejudicial actions, events, hab- 
its, institutions and laws. For we ourselves must be 
either very wicked or very shortsighted and narrow- 
minded, if we believe all misfortunes and wrongs on 
this globe to be produced by the wickedness and 
malice, or the demoniac spirit of man. No, by 
far the greater amount of evil is the consequence 
of man's blindness ; much evil exists only because 
so many human beings do not think at all, and 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 21 



because so many believe they think, but do not 
think. 

If we could all at once remove from the physical 
and moral world, all that is produced by man's ig- 
norance, delusion and blind belief, there would not 
be much left to complain of, and those evils which 
then might remain, would lose their principal sup- 
port and would also vanish by degrees. Wicked men 
would not find any field for their wicked activity and 
influence, if they had not the ignorance and credulity 
of millions of fellow-men to speculate upon. 

There is another class of men whom we might call 
half-thinkers. They have been fortunate enough to 
disenthral themselves from the dominion of outward 
authority, of inherited and communicated belief. 
They have succeeded in examining what was recom- 
mended to them and urged upon them as worthy of 
belief, and they have rejected everything that was 
contradictory to their unbiased and uncorrupted 
judgment and common sense. But they only suc- 
ceeded in pulling down what they found to be erro- 
neous ; the insufficient development of their mental 
faculties, their want of knowledge concerning the 
physical and spiritual world, perhaps even the per- 
version of their hearts, were such as to prevent them 
from penetrating to a higher sphere ; they would 
not acknowledge that there are things which are be- 



22 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR. 



yond their comprehension and which they would have 
to believe on the strength of their being facts, un- 
deniable and irrefutable facts. 

The consequence is that such persons remain scep- 
tics. If their state of mind is the result of a sincere 
search for truth and not of a desire to free themselves 
of moral obligations, their condition is a credit and 
an honor to them, and is by far more valuable 
in the sight of God and of true men, than blind be- 
lief ; still it always is a lamentable one, for they 
often taste only the bitterness of life. I cannot but 
think that Schiller had this in view when he said 
" Error only is life, and knowledge is death." I 
hardly know of any one whom I pity more and whom 
I should more strongly wish to assist, than a sincere 
sceptic who is not able to emerge from his bewil- 
dered and obscured state of mind to a serene and 
trustful faith. I say faith and not knowledge, because 
as I said before, it is not given to man ever to arrive 
at the abstract truth. 

I have tried to elucidate this fact in a somewhat 
lengthy way, because I attach the utmost importance 
to it. I consider it the fundamental principle upon 
which, in doubtful cases, our final happiness depends. 
A right view of truth in the abstract is the only 
thing which in the hours of trial and temptation can 
give any certainty, stability and efficacy to our re- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 23 



ligions views and feelings, and all the minor subjects 
I have alluded to, are, therefore, more closely con- 
nected with the great subject under contemplation, 
than they might at first seem to be. 



n 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



CHAPTER n. 

GENERAL REMARKS ON RELIGIOUS SECTS. 

I can now return to speaking of my subject more 
directly. By proving that no human being is in pos- 
session of abstract truth, we have shown how much 
reason Lessing had to say that probably no one of 
the three rings was genuine. No sect, no creed does 
or can give us truth in the abstract ; the only thing 
they ever can attain, or pretend to attain, is freedom 
from error. And who is there that would be pre- 
sumptuous enough to say that his mind is free from 
error, or that his creed is the pure embodiment of 
truth ? 

Alas ! this question is not the right one, for there 
are only too many who are presumptuous enough to 
think and to say so without being enabled by their 
education, their mental development, their experience 
and their fate in general, to form an opinion inde- 
pendent of outward authority. I should ask, whom 
would an impartial observer think to be free from 
error? The answer certainly would be, very, very 
few, if any. Truth when coming to us through the 
channel of a human mind, resembles too much the 
pure light of the sun which reaches our eye through 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



25 



the medium of the atmosphere, here less, there more 
broken, deflecting, discolored, dissolved, but never in 
its original simplicity and purity. And even if we 
take it for granted that Christ was the embodiment 
of pure, abstract truth, to how many christian sects 
or individuals would an impartial observer grant that 
they have not distorted and confounded the simple 
truth which Christ communicated to the world ? 

Lessing has admirably succeeded in explaining 
what can be required of us, under circumstances as 
they are, or may be. The judge advises the three 
brothers that each should firmly believe his ring to 
be the genuine one. This is the touchstone which 
ought to decide the worth of any religion, of any 
creed, of any individual instance of religious faith 
and profession. Every one ought to be willing to 
grant that all the religious sects differing from his 
own, may also have received their rings from their 
father though theirs may not be genuine. He ought 
to acknowledge that God, for some unknown purpose, 
allows different sects to exist, and at least for a time, 
to flourish, though there may be many errors mixed 
with the simple, essential truths which we can find 
in almost every religion. Every one, however, not- 
withstanding his duty of tolerating other sects, ought 
firmly to believe that his own faith is the genuine 
ring. This is essential. He ought to acknowledge 



26 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



that there are things which he must believe without 
fully comprehending them ; he may even acknowledge 
that for aught he knows, he may be erroneous in 
some things he believes, or disbelieves ; but above 
all he ought to be sure that he fall into no error, 
nor disbelieve any truth, voluntarily, or through his 
own perverseness. Every one must think, investigate 
and choose according to the light that is given to 
him. 

If it is his lot to be born in a country, in a family, 
in a century, (or whatever other outward agencies we 
may name.) that make it impossible for him to choose 
without any prejudice, or perhaps to choose at all, 
then let him faithfully and sincerely accept the faith 
that is offered him by his fellow-men and his God. 
If he is fortunate enough to have been disenthralled 
from outward bondage, let him compare the different 
sects that are willing to receive him ; let him decide 
whether any one seems to him really to embody truth 
in perfect purity, and if he finds such a one, let him 
join that brotherhood, pledging himself to it with 
heart and hand. 

If he find none that seems to be free from error, 
then let him decide whether love to God and love to 
man require him, for the sake of fulfilling his destiny 
on earth to pledge himself to any sect. If so, then 
let him adhere to that one which he finds to be the 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 27 



most free from error. If lie is not prompted to do 
so, then let him decide whether God has called him 
independently to preach the truth as he sees and 
views it. If the spirit move him not, then let him 
simply and quietly walk hefore his God as an humhle 
and trustful child, abstaining from evil and doing 
good as much as lies within him. He will prove that 
his ring is genuine ; he will follow the judge's advice, 
and he will verify the judge's prediction. 

This is the whole secret, or rather the open secret 
about the worth of any religion, of any religious 
profession — sincerity and consistency, that is, the 
fact of having tried to find out one's true relation 
to God, and the fact of endeavoring to regulate one's 
whole life in accordance with this relation, or rather 
as its natural result and effluence. Whatever a man, 
therefore, may profess, his ring is not genuine, if he 
is guilty of inconsistency and hypocrisy. 

If I had written the foregoing pages ten or fifteen 
years ago, I might have believed that I had now said 
enough about this story of Lessing, and that it would 
be enough for me to try living in accordance with 
the spirit it breathes, and to wish that others might 
do the same. At that time my state of mind, my 
experience and my surroundings were such as to 
make me only admire the beauty and truth I found 
in this story. I was not then able or induced to take 



28 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



another view of the subject. At present, however, 
I feel bound to state in what respects I find the story 
deficient and where I think we ought to alter, or at 
least to complete its meaning and import. 

I will not lay great stress upon the circumstance 
that there is no foundation for saying there was at 
first only one genuine ring which was handed down 
through generations, from son to son. Abstract 
truth never has dwelt upon the earth, and the primi- 
tive generations of mankind never had any percep- 
tion of religion in all its simplicity and purity. 
Still we may be easily satisfied with the way in which 
Lessing states the subject. His supposition cannot 
have any practical result and effect for the worse. 
On the contrary, I find it has a very delightful effect 
upon the mind, since it serves as a contrast to the 
present transitory and ] amen table state of confusion 
and degradation, and incites the mind to long for a 
better and more perfect condition of mankind — no 
matter whether such a state ever has existed or not 

More important is the view we must take in devi- 
ation from Lessing's representation, of the number 
and the names of the sects we are obliged to compare. 
In this country and at the present time, there is no 
practical need of our taking the Jewish and Moham- 
medan sects into consideration ; we must confine our 
comparison to the different denominations of Christians. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



29 



In Lessing's time and in the country that Lore 
him, there would have been hardly any inducement 
to take a comprehensive view of any other than the 
Catholic, Lutheran and Eeformed churches. With 
us, however, it is different. The sects which exist 
around us, which lay claim to our attention and 
invite us to join their ranks, are far more than three 
in number, and this circumstance makes, therefore, 
the matter more complicate and the decision more 
difficult. 

The principal things about which we must differ 
from Lessing are the decision and the choice which 
ought to be the result of our knowledge and views 
concerning the different sects. When Nathan has 
finished his story, he says to Saladin, " If you feel 
within you that you are this wiser man who was 
promised," — Saladin interrupts him, saying, "I — 
dust ? I — nothing ? God ! — Nathan, dear Nathan ! 
Thy judge's thousands of thousand years are not 
yet past. His judgment's seat does not belong to me. 
Go ! Go ! But be my friend V 9 

I think we ought not to agree with the opinion 
which this passage implies. As far as we, individu- 
ally and personally are concerned, I think, we ought 
to say that the judge's seat belongs to each and all 
of us. As I said before, if Providence has enabled 
us to compare the different sects, it is not only our 



30 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



right, but also our duty to decide whether any one 
of them is an unalloyed embodiment of true religion, 
or to find out Avhich of them comes nearest to our 
standard of purity and perfection. And at the pres- 
ent time most of us, at least in this country, are 
enabled and induced to compare the different sects, 
and we are not allowed to waive the question, " what 
denomination we consider to be the best." 

There is another passage in Lessing's work which 
refers to the same subject. Saladin interrupts 
Nathan's story with these words : " The rings ! — Do 
not play with me ! — I should think that the religions 
I named to thee, might be distinguished. Even as 
to dress ; as to drink and meat !" Nathan replies ; 
" Only not as far as their foundation is concerned. 
For do they not all found themselves on history, 
written, or delivered by tradition ? xVnd history, I 
suppose , has to be accepted only on trust and faith, 
is it not so ? Well, whose trustworthiness and faith- 
fulness is one least apt to doubt ? I should think 
that of one's own ? That of tli >se from whom we 
descended — that of those who have given us from 
our childhood proofs of their love — who never have 
deceived us, except where it was more salutary for 
us to be deceived ? How can I less trust in my fore- 
fathers, than you in yours ? Or the reverse. Can 
I expect that you should give the lie to your ancestors 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 31 



for the sake of not contradicting mine? Or the 
reverse. The same can be said of the Christians. 
Is it not so ?" Saladin exclaims ; " By the living 
One ! The man is right. I must be silent V 

There is a great deal of beauty, force and truth 
in this dialogue. Still, neither the views it expresses, 
nor the whole work of which it is a part, ought to 
lead us into the belief that it is entirely indifferent 
or irrelevant what sect we belong to. We know that 
God will accept every one, to whatever sect he may 
belong, if he is only sincere in his belief, and dili- 
gent in making his life the sincere expression of his 
faith. But we ought not to say that all sects are 
equal as to the probability of making it easy for us 
to be sincere in our belief, or to make our life the 
true and real effluence of our faith. 

We live in a century and in a country and in cir- 
cumstances that cannot fail to open our minds more 
or less to reflection, and we cannot abide by the 
traditions, by the history and by the opinions of our 
fathers and grandfathers. We must compare ; we 
must choose. And in doing so, we shall find a vast 
difference between the various sects. Some will 
seem to us repulsive, because our minds revolt 
against subscribing to their tenets, or because their 
rites and outward regulations in general do not 
awaken any sympathy in our hearts. Others will 



32 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



have a contrary effect, and if we deliberately choose 
to join any sect, we must bestow our preference where 
we hope entirely, or almost entirely, to find ourselves 
free from danger of subscribing to tenets which 
seem erroneous or doubtful to us ; where we are sure 
that the forms and regulations will not hinder us in 
leading a sincere and godly life ; where on the con- 
trary, everything will tend to assisting, inciting and 
strengthening us in our endeavors to become perfect 
as our Father in Heaven is perfect. 

I know that Providence does not grant equal pow- 
ers and equal opportunities to all men by their own 
observation, investigation and experience to come to 
a comprehensive view and decision concerning all or 
even most of the many sects of Christians. Still, as 
I have said before, at the present time, in this country 
most persons are more or less enabled, obliged and 
forced to decide and to choose for themselves on some 
ground or other. It is their duty to use those means 
which God may send them, by which he induces them 
to think, and by which he assists them in choosing. 
Thus I consider it to be the duty of every one who 
has read the foregoing pages, carefully to examine 
the following narrative of my experiences. 

Providence has guided me so far in a strange 
manner through a checkered life. On my way 
through the past years I have had many occasions 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



33 



and inducements to compare the different christian 
sects, as well concerning their different creeds, as con- 
cerning their different forms. I have probably had 
more experience of this kind than commonly falls to 
the lot of man, and finally the conviction slowly 
ripened within me, that I should not have lived in 
vain, if I had communicated to my fellow-men my 
experiences and opinions concerning the two aspects 
of religion I have mentioned. 

If humility towards our Creator allows us to speak 
of a special Providence, I might say, I have reason 
to believe that my fate, my whole life has tended to 
fit me for the task I have undertaken and to awaken 
in me the sense of an imperative duty, pointing out 
to me this task as the only way in which I could 
make my life the truthful reflection of a sincere faith, 
of a faith dearly bought through long years of doubt, 
darkness and severe trials. 

Under these impressions I write ; under these 
impressions I trust in the issue of my undertaking. 
May God destine it to assist individuals in their 
search after holiness and truth ; or may it pass by 
silently, unnoticed and as to the world at large, 
ineffective — one happy result it will produce — it will 
ease the conscience of one person ; — finished or unfin- 
ished, it will prepare one person to die with the con- 
viction of having tried to do his duty, and will 
3 



34 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



thus enable him to die in tranquillity and peace. 

I wish, therefore, as I have intimated, to relate 
the incidents of my past life, as far as they seem to 
be either directly or indirectly connected with the 
subject of religion ; as far as they in themselves are 
apt to show which religious sect seems to be the best 
adapted to promoting through its tenets and its 
forms, the aims of religion ; or at least as far as 
they have given me occasion to meditate on this 
subject. Among other subjects of general or particu- 
lar interest I shall mention only those which seemed 
to have some influence upon the development of my 
individual religious life and thus indirectly upon my 
opinions concerning religion in general. 

I will not raise the reader's expectations so much 
as to cause him to anticipate a narrative full of start- 
ling facts and events : on the contrary, many things 
may appear, in themselves, insignificant ; their only 
claim to attention will be that they afford me an 
occasion for making reflections, and that they may 
induce the reader to look back upon his own life, to 
compare his own experiences and opinions with mine, 
and thus to come to a conclusion of his own. What- 
ever this conclusion may be, God will bless it with 
happy consequences, if it is only formed with sincerity 
and with a good will towards God and humanity. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



35 



CHAPTEK HI. 

REMINISCENCES OF CHILDHOOD. 

I was born in the year 1821 in Germany, in the 
Northern part of the Granddukedoni of Oldenburg. 

There is nothing that has so great an influence 
upon a person's relations throughout his life, as the 
circumstances connected with the beginning of his 
earthly career. In what age or century a person is 
born ; in what country and place ; who are his parents 
and what their constitution, temperament, character 
and condition ; whatever other agencies act upon a 
person about the time of his birth — all this together 
has such an influence upon his bodily and mental 
constitution, upon his development, upon his feelings, 
thoughts, character and fate throughout his life, that 
it is very difficult to draw a line between the two 
parts of his actions and fate which depend, or do not 
depend upon his free will. 

This general remark is applicable to a good many 
things connected with religion ; particularly have the 
circumstances connected with a person's birth, a great 
influence as to the religious sect to which he after- 
wards may belong. This is more noticeable in Europe 
than in this country ; in fact, in any other country 



36 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



more so than in the United States. There are mil- 
lions and millions of people on earth of whom it 
could never be expected that they should have the 
remotest idea of belonging to any other sect than 
to that of their parents. And even if every indi- 
vidual's mind were so far developed as to be able to 
comprehend such a possibility, still there would be 
millions of people left who would not be at liberty 
to follow their own choice. This shows how little 
difference it makes, as to acceptableness with God, to 
what denomination a person belongs ; that is, not by 
choice, but in fact. 

In Germany, the inhabitants of the same region 
belong almost exclusively to the same denomination. 
The South is Catholic; the North Protestant. In 
some large cities one may find considerable congre- 
gations formed by people who do not belong to the 
prevailing sect ; but in smaller towns and in the 
country there are usually only a few dissenting indi- 
viduals ; in many regions there is not one such person 
to be found. In the Northern part of my native 
state, the inhabitants belonged to the Lutheran 
denomination. Probably, I did not see in my child- 
hood any person who was not a Lutheran, except, 
perhaps, a few Jews who lived here and there as 
pedlers or hucksters. 

Everything, therefore, which had a religious influ- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



37 



ence upon me, or which, at least, was intended to 
have such an influence, came to me through the 
channel of the Lutheran creed and the Lutheran 
rites. There and at that time every child was bap- 
tized a few days, or a few weeks after its "birth. I 
suppose, no parent would have heen at liberty to 
deviate from this rule. At least, I recollect that 
once, (even more than twenty years later) a child 
was taken by the constable and carried to the church 
to be baptized. Its parents had refused to have the 
child baptized by the parish minister, since they had 
been converted to a sect which just then began to 
make proselytes in Germany without being tolerated 
and without being allowed to withdraw from the 
existing church and ritual. 

During my childhood, however, there was no agi- 
tation of any kind concerning religion. Most parents 
had their children baptized, not exactly because the 
government commanded it, nor because they them- 
selves had investigated the doctrine of baptism and 
had come to the conviction of its necessity. I sup- 
pose, they were only prompted by a superstitious, or 
at least a vague belief in the purifying power of 
baptism, and by the desire of giving the child a 
name. Perhaps they ventured upon choosing a 
name sometime before baptism, and, though rarely, 
upon using this name ; but nobody believed that the 



38 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



latter could be lawfully given except by the minister 
while baptizing. I know of one instance where 
the minister forgot to pronounce the name intended 
to be given. The child's parents had no peace of 
mind until the minister had come once more, had 
baptized the child again and given it a name. 

According to the rule I have spoken of, I was 
baptized when about a fortnight old. Whether I 
have reason to rejoice in this circumstance, I am 
hardly able to decide. I know it has done me no 
harm, and on the whole, I know only of two things 
which might be said in opposition to such a rite. 
The one which is merely local and outward, is this : 
The life, or at least the health of children is often ex-' 
posed to danger, if the baptism is performed in the 
church, and if the children are carried there during 
the winter, as it is done in Germany where the 
churches are not warmed. And the immersion of 
adults cannot fail to bo injurious under such circum- 
stances as we sometimes hear of. It is true that 
during an intense excitement a person can endure a 
great deal ; still, such a power of endurance ought 
not to be put to so severe a test. 

The other objection is of a graver nature. People 
are apt to have too high an opinion of the influence 
of baptism, an opinion degenerating into superstitious 
awe and hope. There are whole sects whose creed 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 39 



enjoins the belief in the purifying effect of baptism. 
We ought not to find fault with Luther for standing 
still and halting half way ; for saying in his some- 
what mystical explanation of the sacraments : " the 
water does not do it, but the word of God which 
cometh with and by the water." Luther was a great 
man, a giant who dared to storm the fortress of the 
Catholic hierarchy, formalism and superstition ; but 
should we wonder, if he could not rid himself from 
some preconceived notions? Truly, if Luther had 
lived in the present day, he would have been a 
reformer of a different stamp. 

At the present time it seems to me infinitely more 
easy to free one's self from the dominion of precon- 
ceived notions. A clearer view ought now to be 
expected even from thousands of men who are far 
inferior to Luther in mental power and in genuine, 
rational piety. Nothing but want of independent 
thought can be the reason why millions of Christians 
at present ascribe to baptism more than a symbolical 
significance. 

If I examine myself, with the best intention, I 
cannot really ascribe to being baptized anything good 
that I might find within me. The minister who 
baptized me, was a very good man, but he could not 
influence me at the time, neither personally, nor as 
God's medium or mediator. I met him again when 



40 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



I was a youth, and I honored him as a good man, 
but not because he had baptized me. What virtue 
or power was there in the act of sprinkling my head 
with a few drops of water? I was certainly after it 
identically the same being in body and soul, as the 
moment before. The sacred words the minister pro- 
nounced, could not change me, and transform me in 
that moment from a Heathen into a Christian. They 
could not drive out the inherited sin, if there was 
any in me. They could not protect me against the 
influence of the devil, if I was exposed to the malice 
of such a being. They could not change the aim 
for which a kind Deity had created me, for God is 
good and wise, and does not need the rite of baptism 
to connect himself kindly and closely with the crea- 
tures of his hand. 

The only influence my baptism could have, was 
that exerted on the grown persons concerned in it, 
and I hardly venture to say that it had any decided 
influence upon them. I suppose, my parents' con- 
science was eased by having me baptized, but I do 
not believe that their conduct towards me, their care 
for me and their influence upon me were much affected 
by that act, or by the recollection of it. The min- 
ister who was afterward promoted to a higher dignity, 
and in whose diocese I was teacher for some time, 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



41 



treated me very kindly ; still, I am sure he would 
have done so, if he had not "baptized me. 

I do not think that my sponsors were much influ- 
enced by that religious act ; at least, I do not remem- 
ber that they ever tried, as such, to promote my 
bodily or mental welfare. In fact, I am not sure 
that I ever have known who they were. When I 
commenced this part of my narrative, I did not know 
their names, and wishing to know of my relation to 
them, I was obliged, first to examine the certificate 
of baptism in my possession. I find there one per- 
son mentioned, whom, I think, I have never known, 
and the other two were not at all remembered by me 
as my sponsors. 

My experience on this subject is no exception. 
Persons in the most widely differing situations must 
acknowledge to have had the same experience. The 
poorer classes of my countrymen chose sponsors 
principally with the expectation of most welcome 
baptismal presents, and when the sponsors had given 
these, they had done all that was expected from them. 
In other cases, the sponsors were chosen on the 
ground of consanguinity, or of other claims to re- 
spect and attention. 

I do not recollect often to have met with instances 
where sponsors were chosen, or were acting in accord- 



42 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



ance with the principle of responsibility and guar- 
dianship involved in this relation. 

Still, after all, I would not very decidedly militate 
against the continuance of the rite of baptism. I 
know the Quakers have good reasons for maintaining 
that baptism with water is no sacrament. John the 
Baptist says that he himself baptizes with water, 
but Christ will baptize with the Hohy Ghost and with 
fire. (Matt, iii : 11. Lukeiii: 16.) 

The Quakers are right when they say, there is no 
proof that Christ's injunctions of baptizing and of 
being baptized, include the necessity of baptizing 
with water. They are right in saying there is no 
record of Christ's having baptized anybody. They 
have, therefore, some reason for explaining baptism 
as a spiritual regeneration and for discontinuing the 
rite of baptism as a mere form. 

I agree so far with them, that I personally do not 
attach any importance to having been baptized, and 
that I think the most perfect state of the human 
mind is the one in which an individual proves to be 
religious independently of all outward forms. I can- 
not help wishing, therefore, that all Christians might 
adopt the view of the Quakers, and that everybody 
might be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, 
and not with water. Still, I believe, that at present 
the world at large is not prepared for leading a reli- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



43 



gious life entirely independent of forms and rites, 
and, therefore, I think we ought to be tolerant enough 
to look without great disappointment upon the con- 
tinuance of baptism among some sects, for an indefi- 
nite space of time. 

However, if I should express my opinion fully, I 
ought to add that I should have much more sympathy, 
in this respect, with the Baptists, than with the other 
denominations who consider the baptism of infants 
necessary. As I have stated above, the influence of 
the latter upon the assisting grown persons is very 
slight, very rare and very passing. The influence 
upon the child I consider to be null at the time, and 
problematic as to the future. In this country, I sup- 
pose I have seen grown persons, at least, I know I 
have seen children and youths, who never had been 
baptized, and certainly there was nothing about them 
by which to distinguish them from those that had 
been baptized. 

The Baptists have, at least, this in their favor, 
that they can say, the baptism of adults is calculated 
to have some good influence upon the baptized indi- 
viduals. If it is not the fruit of superstition or of 
hypocrisy, it is the result and evidence of a right 
state of mind and probably a means of strengthening 
and inciting a person to strive for a pure religious 
faith and a pure religious life. 



44 THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 

Having thus expressed my opinion upon the most 
important religious subject connected with my child- 
hood, I have hut little more to add. My parents 
were both quite as religious as anybody around them. 
My father was a just, upright and active man. He 
was organist in the church of a small village and 
teacher in the parish school, and as such he had offi- 
cially to take a part in all the customary religious 
acts and performances. He did this without any 
great amount of outward signs of devotion, but also 
without any carelessness or levity. My mother went 
only once or twice a month to church, but her life 
was an uninterrupted exemplification of the true 
character of a good wife, mother, mistress and 
neighbor. 

I can hardly remember any instance of having 
been obliged or induced during my childhood, to join 
in any religious exercises, or even to witness them. 
I have a faint recollection of having been at church 
and of listening to the organ, but I have not the 
slightest recollection of having heard any sermon. 
At home we had no morning or evening devotions. 
As I intimated above, this does not prove that my 
parents were not religious, or did not try to educate 
their children well. They were what their time and 
their country made them. I think there was not 
in the whole neighborhood a family, where the mem- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



45 



bers were wont to meet for any such religious exercises. 
Thus it could not be expected of my parents, that 
they should do so. 

What in this country is left to parents and to 
Sabbath- School Teachers, was in my native country 
expected and required from the common schools. 
There, the children are instructed in religion as soon 
as they enter, which is at the age of six years, and 
there I suppose I received my first definite impressions 
concerning religion. Still I am unable to trace them. 
Since my father allowed me to enter the school when 
I was four years old, I learned all the first elements 
of knowledge, (writing, reading, &c.,) without now 
being able to recall that, when and how I learned 
them. 

Whatever course my parents pursued in my mental 
and spiritual education, whether they could have 
done more, or not, for the sake of making me a good 
and pious man, so much is certain, that they did not 
kill the spirit by formalism ; they did nothing to make 
me hate outward religion ; they did not embitter my 
early years- by useless and irksome attempts to foster 
a precocious religious spirit. I have no recollection 
of early griefs and sorrows, and believe, therefore, 
to have spent a very happy childhood, a childhood 
which made it less difficult for me, afterwards to 
aspire to purity and simplicity in religious faith. 



46 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



I ought, however, on this occasion to notice one 
more thing which is of the greatest importance as to 
the religious views which a child may imbibe, and 
which may perhaps be fixed in his mind forever ; I 
mean superstition. A child can be made to believe 
anything, and what it does believe at the time — this 
is entirely the work of outward influences. And 
what the grown person believes, or disbelieves, may 
be different from the belief of his childhood ; still, 
the latter cannot be considered as entirely irrelevant. 
Happy are those who in their childhood are neither 
made to believe too little, nor too much ; for any one 
is apt on coming to years of discretion to be driven 
into an extreme either on the same side where he 
erred in his childhood, or on the opposite. 

My parents, as far as I recollect, did nothing to 
make me superstitious in religious matters. I only 
remember that my mother used to relate incidents 
like the following. 

One evening during her childhood, a gentleman 
and his wife who had paid a visit at her father's 
house, were accompanied home by a servant with a 
lantern. On the way they were overtaken by a 
thunderstorm, and the servant, in spite of all admoni- 
tion, spoke about it in a very irreligious way, saying, 
" light up, devil, &c." Because the weather was so 
bad, he was persuaded to stay over night at the 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 47 



neighbor's house. There, he lay down to sleep on a 
bench in a front room. The lightning struck the 
house, entered at the gable end, went down into that 
room, killed that servant, and went out again without 
injuring any one else, or setting the house on fire. 

I know we ought not to judge others, and ought 
not to call anybody's misfortunes, except our own, 
punishments, judgments, admonitions of the Deity. 
Still, I would rather have been taught by my mother 
that God punishes the wicked directly on this earth 
than to be told that money paid for a mass, will help 
a soul sooner to get out of purgatory, &c. 

From other children and from grown people of a 
limited education I heard occasionally some things 
which were superstitious and absurd enough. There 
was more superstition among the people at large than 
one would expect to find in the 19th century, in a 
protestant community. Many there were who firmly 
believed in ghosts, in forebodings, in places being 
haunted &c. I will only give one specimen. 

In our neighborhood there was an estate which in 
feudal times had been owned by a noble family. 
Several centuries ago there lived on this estate a man 
who was a tyrant over his subjects. He built a 
church, and when it was finished, and the preacher 
was to preach in it for the first time, he told the 
latter not to begin his sermon before he should arrive. 



48 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



The preacher waited a long time, but at last, when 
he gave up all hope of seeing the nobleman, he began 
his sermon. Very soon, however, his patron entered 
the church, and finding that he had been disobeyed, 
he killed the minister instantly in the pulpit. 

This, and other such evil deeds showed his estrange- 
ment from God ; he went on from one crime to 
another, and at last, for some purpose or other, he 
forfeited himself to the devil. However, when he 
lay on his death-bed, he determined upon cheating 
the devil out of his reward, and gave his directions 
accordingly. 

His servants, therefore, when their master had 
died, placed him in a coffin upon the threshing floor. 
Around it they drew a magic circle, and inside of 
the circle they seated themselves to watch and to 
pray over the corpse, and thus to keep off the devil. 
At midnight, the lord of the infernal regions made 
his appearance and demanded his own. However, 
he could not break the spell and could not pass into 
the circle. Enraged he disappeared. 

The second night he was not much more successful. 
Misfortune only befell a chanticleer, whom the ser- 
vants had kept within the circle to tell by his song 
the hour of the night ; he ventured across the line, 
and the devil in his rage tore him into pieces. Dur- 
ing the third night, by some unaccountable mistake, 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 49 

the coffin had been placed too near the circumference. 
The devil found it possible to lay hold of the corpse. 
The servants, when they saw this, tried by fervent 
and loud prayers to avert the impending evil. The 
devil became so enraged at this that he knew no 
bounds to his wrath ; he fleeced the dead body in 
an instant, and threw the skin at the servants' heads. 
The men stooped, and the skin hit the opposite wall. 
It made a reddish spot there, and this spot can be 
seen " up to the present day no whitewashing can 
blot out the stain. 

I will not say that I ever believed this and other 
stories of the same stamp, but I know I listened to 
them with infinite delight and " pleasant horror," 
and I am sure there were many old people and chil- 
dren who firmly believed them. 



4 



50 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



CHAPTER IV. 

BOYHOOD. 

For several reasons early childhood is usually con- 
sidered as terminating with the eighth year. For a 
special reason I must consider this age still more 
decidedly as the end of my childhood. At that time, 
my father was promoted to a better situation in a 
village about nine miles distant from my birthplace, 
and this change of residence had a great influence 
on me. At least it seems to me, as if it all at once 
developed my mental faculties to a considerable 
degree. 

That event itself left a very lively impression on 
my mind, and from that time on, I can not only 
remember many single facts and occurrences, but can 
also trace the effects these events had on me. On 
the other hand, the years just preceding that change 
are almost a blank in my memory. This leads me 
to believe that it does not injure children to leave 
their birthplace when young. It is true, they ought 
not to travel much, nor ought they to be transplanted, 
single and alone ; but their home need not always 
be in the same place. If the family ties remain 
unbroken, a change of residence is more influential 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 51 



and desirable than the forming of local attachments 
by remaining in one place. 

Kelio-ious exercises did not enter into our domestic 
life as a regular thing, any more than in our former 
residence. For some reason or other, however, my 
father attempted once, or twice to introduce prayers 
before dinner. One, or two of us children had to 
recite a short prayer which we had learned by heart. 
This rule, however, was kept up only a few weeks or 
months, and I recollect very well how delighted we 
children were at being freed from such a duty. I 
am not aware that any religious thought or feeling 
ever was awakened in me, by and during those 
prayers ; but I have not forgotten what an irksome 
thing they seemed to be. 

I do not know what induced my father to discon- 
tinue this practice, but I should praise him and con- 
sider him very judicious, if he gave it up, because he 
found it a disagreeable task for us. I will not say 
that parents ought to do nothing that displeases 
their children, but I think children who are indiffer- 
ent, or averse to frequent and regular praying, show 
more good judgment and common sense than their 
parents who insist upon forcing it upon their children 
against their wishes. 

At school, religion formed the principal part of 
our exercises and instruction. Every morning and 



52 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



afternoon, the whole class sang at the "beginning, 
three or four stanzas of a hymn ; thereupon one 
scholar read a long prayer ; then the next recited 
the Lord's prayer, and two or three others followed 
reciting short prayers from a collection which each 
of us possessed. At noon and in the evening the 
school was closed by a short prayer, or by singing 
one stanza of a hymn. My recollection of these 
exercises is not a very pleasant one. I cannot trace 
any good impression they made on me ; on the con- 
trary, I know how anxious I often was to get through. 
And I am sure I was no more irreligious or wicked 
than the other scholars ; they all felt and spoke 
about the subject as I did. 

More favorable and cheerful are my impressions 
of the religious instruction imparted at school. My 
father had commenced teaching before the year 1810, 
when the methods of instruction had not yet been so 
much developed and perfectioned as they were when 
I began teaching ; moreover, at that time, there ex- 
isted no special institutions like the teacher's semi- 
naries of a later date in which we younger teachers 
were directly prepared for our business. Thus it 
could not be expected from my father that he should 
make his religious instruction as interesting and 
useful, as I know from my own experience they can 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 53 



be made. Still, even his labors, I think, were not 
in vain. 

The first school hour of two mornings in the week, 
was dedicated to the catechism ; of two others, to 
Bible history, and of the remaining two, to the Epis- 
tles and to Hymns. The first branch of these in- 
structions did not consist in the teacher's asking 
questions from the book and the scholars' reciting 
answers that were learned by rote. The teacher had 
prepared a dialogue upon a definite plan. For exam, 
pie, if he was to teach about Omnipotence, he first 
tried to elicit from the scholars, or to develop in their 
minds the idea of power and of omnipotence. Then 
he made them find in the Universe around them and 
in their own being, the proofs of God's Omnipotence. 
Then he explained the verses in the Bible which 
speak of God as the Almighty. Lastly, he tried to 
bring this knowledge home to the scholars by helping 
them to find out what influence this truth had, or 
must have on every human mind. He exemplified 
this by adducing or relating instances of historical 
persons whose lives showed the impress of this truth, 
and he finished by a short epilogue calculated to 
awaken in the scholars a desire to let their lives be 
influenced by the religious truth they had contem- 
plated. If a teacher did not always succeed in warm- 
ing the hearts of his scholars, at least he was apt to 



54 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



enlighten their minds, since he always instructed by 
means of free and unembarrassed dialogues ; and 
this seems to me to be doing a great deal. 

The second branch oi religious instruction consisted 
in reading, reciting, explaining and applying those 
parts of the old and new Testament, which, connected 
wi th occasional supplementary information, gave a 
knowledge of the ante-Mosaic history, of the origin, 
continuance and downfall of the Mosaic religion, and 
of the origin of Christianity. To this was often 
added an outline of ecclesiastical history up to the 
present time. 

The third branch consisted partly in reading, analyz- 
ing, explaining and reciting hymns, but principally 
in reading and explaining the Epistles of the Apostles, 
impressing as much as possible upon the minds and 
hearts of the scholars the importance and necessity 
of regulating one's life in accordance with the precepts 
given in the text. 

Besides this instruction, complete in itself, we also 
received instruction from the minister, and I recollect 
distinctly what a useless and disagreeable addition 
this seemed to us. On Sundays, the scholars of the 
first class were obliged to go to church, and when the 
sei vices were over, we had to place ourselves in the 
aisle, the boys in a file on one side, and the girls on 
the other. As I was at the head of the class, I had 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



55 



first to say along prayer which. I had learned by heart. 
Then the minister tried to give us religious instruction, 
but he never made it interesting, or useful. On the 
whole, never afterwards did I hear a minister instruct 
the children so well in religion, as the primary teach- 
ers. The former were not, like the latter, directly 
prepared and trained for teaching children, through 
the medium of dialogues, and failed, therefore, in 
forming the right plan, in putting the right questions* 
in making the right use of answers they received. On 
the whole, they were deficient in tact, and the latter 
makes the good teacher, much more than any amount 
of erudition. 

On Wednesdays and Saturdays the minister came 
to the school. On the latter day, he explained to us 
Luther's small catechism. On the former, he ques- 
tioned us about the sermon of the preceding Sunday, 
of which he expected us to have written, at least, the 
text, the subject and the principal heads or subdivisions 
"We did not like this much ; still if it did not make us 
better, it obliged us, at least, to be partially attentive, 
and it proved thus to be a good mental exercise. I 
learned to give quite an extensive sketch of a sermon, 
but the minister once made a great mistake, and spoiled 
the pleasure I might have derived from it. Once, 
when I showed him such a sketch, he said, he supposed 
that " I had ploughed with another person's oxen," 



56 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



moaning that I had copied from the notes which he 
knew my father's assistaut was wont to make. I do 
not think I wrote again an extensive sketch of a ser- 
mon, until I went to another school and heard other 
ministers. 

Truly, suspicion, or any kind of injustice, cuts sha/p- 
ly into the heart of a child, and grown persons ought 
to beware of hurting a child's feelings. I remember, 
for instance, that some years later, one of my teachers, 
in a fit of passion, threw a book at the head of a 
scholar. The latter dodged, and the book hit me who 
was sitting on the bench behind him. The teacher 
did not say a word of excuse to me, and I remember 
it took me a long time to forgive him this want of 
justice and 'of kindness. Surely, the best way of 
teaching children religion, is to be religious one's self, 
and especially scrupulously religious in one's treatment 
of children. And by " religious " I mean " wise, just 
and kind," towards them, as God is towards us. 

If I have confessed in the foregoing lines, that I 
was not interested in most of the religious performan- 
ces I participated in or witnessed, I think I do not 
expose myself to the blame of having been more 
irreligious than other children. I have noticed the 
same spirit in most children wherever I have been. 
Even in this country, in a family where the mother 
was truly a pious woman, and the children were as good 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 57 



and as well educated as in any other family, I noticed 
that the children were not always interested in our 
family devotions, (at least, not in tke long ones on 
Sundays,) and that they really disliked heing taught 
their catechism. 

Instead of believing, as their mother did, that this 
was owing to inherent sin, I thought they followed 
their uncorrupted instinct and best guide. 

As to public worship, I think the Quakers are, by 
far, the most judicious. If I am rightly informed 
they do not oblige their children to be present at the 
Sunday meetings, but hold a meeting in the middle 
of the week, which is appointed principally to meet 
the wants of children. 

I must notice one instance from my boyhood which 
shows, in opposition to other things mentioned, that 
I was neither thoughtless, nor inaccessible to religious 
impressions. For several years, my father let me go 
a part of the week, to a neighboring village for the 
sake of taking Latin lessons from a candidate of 
Divinity. I remember that every morning just after 
having started, I recommended myself to God's pro- 
tection, by repeating Christ's words : " Father, into 
thy hands I commend my spirit." I suppose, I was 
principally influenced by fear, to do so, for my path led 
me through many meadows where there were herds of 
cattle. Occasionally some of them became furious, 



58 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



and we heard now and then of instances where a person 
had heen attacked by them. But even if it was fear, 
and not the higher motive of disinterested love that 
first led me thus to pray of my own accord, I look 
hack upon that circumstance with great delight. It 
showed that I spontaneously acknowledged God to he 
my father and protector. And certainly my childish 
religion was as good as that of most grown persons ; 
for how many are there, who can say, " I am entirely 
free from fear and from self-interest, and I pray to 
God with disinterestedness and pure love ; my prayers 
are not the result of mere hahit, nor prompted hy the 
dread of impending evil, or by the hopes of future 
gifts and rewards ? " 

When I was about 12 years of age, my father sent 
me to the gymnasium or college, in a neighboring 
town. This change could not fail again to have a de- 
cided influence on me ; it changed my whole course of 
studies ; it forced me into entirely different associations ; 
it taught me somewhat early to depend upon myself, 
since my father hired a room for me in a private house 
where the people had and exercised no control over 
me. Still I was not entirely removed out of my fami- 
ly's circle. I was only five miles from home and spent, 
therefore, many a Satarday and Sunday with my 
parents, besides all my vacations which came five times 
a year, and lasted from one to three weeks each. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 59 



For some time there occurred hardly anything of 
which I could say that it had a decidedly new religious 
influence upon me. At college we were instructed in 
religion in a manner which has left no deep traces in 
my mind, no more than^ the Sunday catechizations 
which all the students under 14 years of age were 
ohliged to attend. When I was at home, I often went 
with my father to church/principally, I suppose, "because 
I liked to hear the organ and occasionally to play it 
myself. 

When I was about 14 years of age, I applied, in 
conformity with the laws of the state, for being con- 
firmed. Confirmation is the act which allowed the 
scholars of the common schools to leave off going to 
school, and 14 years, or upward, was the age requisite 
for being admitted to that religious act. 

According to the law, we had previously to go to 
the minister several times a week, for several months, 
in order to be instructed in the catechism. This regu- 
lation was a remnant of a former half-civilized age. 
When there were no schools, or at best only miserable 
ones, this regulation might have been very useful and 
necessary, but when I went through this course, there 
was not the slightest need of it, and it seemed espe- 
cially aggravating to us college students thus to lose 
so many beautiful and valuable hours which we could 
have spent so much more usefully and pleasantly. 



60 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



The day usually appointed for confirmation was the 
Sunday before Easter, Palm-Sunday. On this day, 
after due preparation, we were confirmed in the church 
surrounded by a large crowd of people. Such a con- 
firmation, on the whole, seemed to fill a church more 
than anything else ; on such an occasion there was 
always a large congregation, in churches even that were 
on other Sundays almost empty. From this, we may 
infer that the confirmation was considered by old and 
young as one of the most solemn religious acts. 

After the usual prayers and the singing of hymns, 
the " Confirmandi " ranged themselves in the aisle, 
and the minister went through a kind of examination 
or recapitulation of the instruction during the preced- 
ing winter, intended to give the scholars an occasion, 
by their answers to show that they had sufficient reli- 
gious knowledge. This was followed by an exhorta- 
tion, in which the minister partly addressed the con- 
firmandi, partly their parents and other relations, and 
partly the whole congregation. 

Thereupon the minister took his stand at the altar ; 
the confirmandi successively came up to him, perhaps 
in the number of 8 or 10, and knelt round the altar. 
By giving the right hand to the minister they promised 
to keep the covenant, if I may thus term the signifi- 
cance of the rite, which, in other words, is a comple- 
tion and corollary of baptism, since the " confirmand ,, 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 61 



declares that he now acknowledges the validity of 
what has been done to him when an infant ; that he 
now takes upon himself the responsibility which, be- 
fore, rested upon his sponsors ; that he will try to lead 
a true Christian life &c. Finally, the minister blessed 
the confirmandi two by two, laying his hands on their 
heads, and giving them some cardinal verse from the 
Scriptures as a guide or as a treasure by which to 
remember this moment. 

I must, however, confess that I have long ago for- 
gotten what verse was pronounced over me. By saying 
this, I do not wish to intimate that this religious act 
made no impression upon me. On the contrary, I 
remember very few religious acts that have impressed 
me so deeply as this one. In the afternoon, a friend 
of mine and I planted each, in a flower-pot, a rose, 
which each of us kept for a long time as a token of 
remembrance. Such a thing I have not done on any 
other occasion in my whole life. 

What I have to object to this custom, is this : it 
ought not to be subjected to law, but ought to be the 
result of an inward necessity and of a person's free- 
will. 

Then the period of life appointed for it, was not the 
right one. I do not think I was old enough fully to 
realize the importance and significance of the act, 
and I am sure there was not one out of a hundred 



62 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



who was at that age more able than I, to comprehend 
the meaning of the act, to meditate on its consequences 
and to form resolutions adequate to the circumstances. 
Moreover, the thing has its dangers. Besides the 
many who go thoughtlessly through such a ceremony, 
and who consequently desecrate a solemn rite, there 
are thousands who knowingly and intentionally do not 
keep their promises, and swear thus a false oath before 
their God. 

My opinion, therefore, is that it is best not to have 
any such ceremony at all, and to leave such declarations, 
promises and resolutions to each individual, as a pri- 
vate affair between him and his God. Still, if some 
one should say that the generality of Christians need 
some outward signs and forms, I would answer him, 
that I consider the baptism of adults alone by far 
superior to infant baptism combined with its completion 
— compulsory and universal confirmation. 

With us, the confirmation had a great influence up- 
on a person's social relations ; directly after it every 
one was admitted on an equal footing to the different 
relations and branches of the life of adults. As to 
religion, that act was followed by the first admission 
to the communion-table which was again one of the 
most important events of one's whole life. The 
Thursday after Palm-Sunday (Maundy-Thursday) was 
the day appointed for this act. The Germans call 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 63 



that day Green-Thursday, because the ancient Jews 
on that day ate their passover with green herbs. 

The young Christian usually went to the first com- 
m union together with his parents, sisters, brothers and 
friends. This made it the more solemn. And one 
other thing among the Lutheran ordinances, I con- 
sidered to be especially useful. When they, after the 
reformation, abolished the auricular confession which 
is still kept up among the Catholics, a general public 
confession was instituted in its stead. That is, all 
those who wished on a certain day to go to communion, 
met on the preceding day at the church. Here the 
minister addressed them in such words as mi^ht be 
calculated to lead his hearers to a rigid self-examina- 
tion &c, so as to approach the communion-table on the 
following day with a contrite heart, with a humble 
mind and with good and strong resolutions. But it 
was a pity that in many places a custom was connected 
with this beneficial preparatory act which seemed to 
me entirely to spoil the effect of the latter. 

I went once to such a meeting in a strange place, and 
with all the others who intended to go to the commu- 
nion, I stood before the altar listening to the minister's 
address. "When he had finished, he turned round and 
laid his head upon the altar as if he was praying. 
At the same time the file of communicants beo*an 
to move, and walked in procession around the altar. 



64 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



I did not join the ranks and stood looking on in utter 
amazement. Soon, however, the mystery was solved. 
When the leader of the procession appeared again on 
the other side of the altar, he deposited there a piece 
of money, and all the others followed his example. 
They payed for their communion, and the minister 
depended for a part of his income upon the money 
thus raised. 

About the first communion, I must repeat what I 
said about confirmation. For the same reasons it 
ought not to be such a general thing, and young people 
of 14 years rarely ought to be admitted to it. I do 
not recollect whether on that day I really had already 
investigated the doctrine of the sacrament of com- 
munion ; if I had, I could not well have joined in the 
communion with sincerity and in good faith. At least, 
I do not recollect ever to have consciously believed in 
the Lutheran doctrine of co-substantiation, and much 
less, therefore, in the Catholic doctrine of transub- 
stantiation. How any sane human mind ever could 
believe the latter, has always been a mystery to me< 
But even the Lutheran belief of " receiving Christ's 
body in, with and by the bread " does not seem to me 
much more comprehensible and acceptable than the 
former. I know, ever since I had a belief of my own, 
I looked upon communion as a mere symbolical rite — 
according to the creed of the Eeformed Church. I 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 65 



only went once, or twice again to communion, and that 
only, for the sake of yielding to my parents' wishes ; 
afterwards my conscience would not have allowed me 
even tacitly and practically to assent to the Lutheran 
doctrine of co-substantiation. 

At present I should hardly feel able with sincerity 
to join in communion with Christians of any denomi- 
nation, at least if they call communion a sacrament. 

First, I consider it to he of the greatest importance 
that we should look upon tenets and forms, in the 
true light and spirit of the Christian religion which 
is expressed in Christ's words, " the true worshippers 
shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.' ' 
The Christian religion is pre-eminently a spiritual 
and inward religion, and does not depend upon forms 
or types. The less it is alloyed with the latter, the 
nobler and purer it is. And that sincere and pure 
Christianity can and does exist independent of forms, 
we see verified in the lives of many pious Quakers. 

The Quakers have discontinued the rite of com- 
munion. Among other things which justify them in 
doing so, they adduce the following. On the same 
occasion, when Christ broke the bread, he also washed 
the disciples' feet, and insisted very earnestly upon 
their doing to each other the same. Now, if all 
Christian sects agree in explaining this act as a sym- 
bolical one, and construe the injunction in a figurative 
5 



G6 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



sense, why should not the other act of breaking bread 
be explained in the same way, since it is not any more 
plainly and solemnly performed than the former? 

But even if we would grant that Christ meant to 
institute a religious rite, which T verily believe he did 
not mean to do — even then, it would not follow that 
this rite ought to be performed in the mode it is per- 
formed, or rather I ought to say, in any of the various 
modes in which it is performed. The members of one 
denomination believe they really eat the body and 
drink the blood of Christ (what a shocking idea this 
must seem to an intelligent " outsider 99 who thinks 
of anthropophagi as only living on some islands in 
the Pacific Ocean. ) 

The members of another denomination believe they 
mystically eat the body and drink the blood of Christ, 
and others have various other, more or less exalted, 
ideas of the Lord's supper. 

Not only the doctrine, but also the rite itself varies 
much. Some say the priest only, must perform the 
rite. Others consider it necessary that the laity should 
eat the bread. Some refuse the lay members the wine, 
some insist upon giving it. Some consider it necessary 
to give the bread in the shape of wafers, others give 
pieces of common household bread. Some are of the 
opinion that wax-candles must burn during the per- 
formance, others are opposed to it. Some think the 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. G7 

communicants ought to kneel around the altar ; others 
think they may remain in their pews. 

Surely, if we contemplate all this, and if we then 
study the history of the Christian Church, we are 
tempted to agree with an Author (a Quaker) who 
says, " These ordinances which have been the cause 
of endless divisions and contentions and persecutions, 
cannot truly appertain to the law of God." 

I must repeat, if Christ meant to institute a reli- 
gious rite, he did not mean to institute such a sacra- 
ment as the Church has made of it. His command 
ought to he explained either as referring merely to 
the annual passover, or to an act more universal and 
common than the rite of communion. The example 
of the disciples and of the first Christian society shows 
that they put the latter construction upon it. 

Still, though I believe the best Christians to be those 
who are pious and good without depending upon the 
rite of communion either for moral strength, or for 
humility towards God, or for love to Christ, I grant 
there are many Christians who are really benefited by 
partaking of the Lord's supper, and we ought to admit 
that those who cannot do without forms, are justified 
in continuing the rite of communion. 

We would only insist upon one thing. It is un- 
worthy of an enlightened age, country and religious 
society, that any one should look upon communion as 



63 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



anything more than a useful, symbolical rite. Nobody 
ouo-ht to believe that the mere act should insure re- 
demption, cleanse from all sins and open the gates of 
heaven. Much less ought it to be relied upon as an 
indulgence and as a pretext for deviations from the 
right path, at other times. In Germany I once knew 
a man who went one Sunday to communion, and the 
following Sunday a poaching. I fear, that He who 
reads clearly the history of every human life and 
heart, finds many such sad contrasts and inconsistencies. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 69 



CHAPTER V. 

V YOUTH. 

Though confirmation and first communion, as I have 
ohserved, admitted hoys and girls into the ranks of 
grown persons, still they had not so much apparent 
influence upon the outward life of us, college students, 
since we had a rank of our own, which was graduated 
according to the class we "belonged to. 

The following year I was in a class where we had a 
teacher upon whom I look as on a mystery, even at 
the present day, after having had myself so much ex- 
perience as a teacher. He was less capahle than any 
other teacher I have ever seen, to govern, and morally 
or intellectually to improve his class. He was intelli- 
gent ; at least I do not think that any scholar ever 
suspected him of not "being master of the subject he 
taught. He was not negligent, for he performed his 
duties as regularly, and carefully, as any of the other 
teachers. We all gave him the credit of being a very 
good man ; yea, we believed him to be strictly a pious, 
a religious person. He had been a settled minister, 
before he was appointed as our teacher, and we knew 
that he had been a less worldly-minded minister, than 
any other in the whole neighborhood. And still, he 



70 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



kept no discipline. It is incredible what liberties the 
scholars took, what pranks and tricks, what mischief 
and wickedness were practised in his classes. 

Tn later years, I have often thought, and tried to 
find out, what could have been the reason, that he 
failed just where some others, an hour before, or after, 
kept the most admirable discipline. I have never been 
able to find a fully satisfactory explanation. He was 
usually too impassive, too weak, or " too good"; he 
allowed many things to pass a long time unnoticed, 
but at long intervals he happened to be roused, and 
then he became so passionate, that he lost all control 
over himself. Once I noticed that his mouth foamed, 
and even such scenes were rather a source of sport 
for the scholars. If I recollect rightly, he once fell 
upon his knees and prayed, but also without effect. 
Whether his want of strength, and of the right degree 
of equanimity explains all this, I do not know. I can 
only surmise one other cause, which is the secret 
reason of many failures in teaching, and in education 
generally, viz., want of disinterested love towards the 
single scholars ; but I have no right to accuse this 
teacher of such a want ; on the contrary I owe him 
much gratitude for private lessons which he gave me 
gratuitously. 

It will be easily comprehended, that religious in- 
struction from such a man, could have no good effect 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 71 



on us. I can picture hira to myself as standing before 
us, with the beautiful book " Charity, Faith, and 
Hope " of Draeseke in his hand, but I have no recollec- 
tion of what he said ; I remember much better that 
one of the students used to make all sorts of sport 
during the lessons, of a picture of Christ, which was 
in his book. 

I remained only one year after my confirmation, in 
this class ; at that time I left the college entirely. 
My father had sent me there, wishing and expecting 
that I should study divinity. For the sake of doing 
this, I should have been obliged to remain two, or 
three years longer at college, and then to go for three 
years to the university. Although my father had not 
the means of letting me go through such a course of 
studies, still I could have done so ; the college was 
richly endowed, and was able always to assist several 
students throughout their stay at college and at the 
university. Sometime before I left, one " stipendium " 
was at the disposal of the consistory, and it was offered 
to me. 

Though my teachers wished me to accept it, though 
it was my father's desire, one day to see me in the 
pulpit, still I could not make up my mind to enter 
upon the course proposed. I cannot say that I had 
any weighty reasons for shunning the study of divinity, 
nor do I recollect that my father required me to give 



72 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



any. When he saw me reluctant to remain at college, 
he did not urge me any further ; he was probahly 
wise enough to know that a youth ought not to he 
forced into any vocation against his will. 

I have never yet regreted my perseverance, or my 
father's indulgence in this case. There is much pre- 
judice in Germany concerning the standing which a 
stay at the university gives. I say a stay, and not an 
education, for the college gives the entire, regular and 
general education. The university gives freedom. 
Some, therefore, learn there merely what is necessary 
in their profession; some learn what they just happen 
to fancy ; others learn hardly anything at all except 
fencing, drinking beer &c. 

The usual course at the university of studying, or 
of neglecting studies, or of misapplying study, is 
particularly very little calculated to produce pious 
and practical ministers, and this is one of the reasons 
why Germany, especially Protestant Germany, has so 
few good, practical and efficient ministers. 

I have, therefore, often been led to think that a 
regular course of the prescribed studies would have 
made of me a minister of as little worth as so many 
others, and I rejoice in having been preserved from 
this fate. Otherwise I might have had reasons to 
regret my course of action, at least as long as I lived 
in Germany ; for as I said, the bare fact of having 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



73 



been at the university procures many worldly privi- 
leges, some of which another person never can enjoy. 
And those even that he can reach, he has to conquer 
by great perseverance, or extraordinary qualities and 
attainments. 

I left college with the intention of preparing my- 
self in the regular and established way, at the Teach- 
ers' Seminary of the State, for the profession of 
teaching. At this institution they received new 
students only once every two years, and in expectation 
of such a new term I spent an intervening space of 
six months at home. Once or twice every week I 
went to town to take private lessons from my former 
teachers ; on the other week days, I made some at- 
tempts at teaching under my father's guidance. On 
Sundays I went to church, but more for the sake of 
playing the organ, than from any other motive. 

The time I spent subsequently at the Teachers' 
Seminary was one of the most influential periods of 
my life, as far as my religious education is concerned. 
Just as in all the other branches, our religious in- 
struction had two aims ; the one to develop us individ- 
ually for our own sake ; the other to impart to us, or 
to develop in us all the sentiments, knowledge and 
skill that would enable us to be good teachers. 

We had one teacher of religion who was not a 
minister and who taught us only the methodical part 



74 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



of religious instruction, i. e. the way of forming the 
plan of a catichization ; the way of forming good 
questions, of making the right use of a scholar's 
answer, of adapting the right words to the different 
subjects, times, scholars &c. &c. 

A second teacher (he was one of the grandduke's 
chaplains) seemed to me to be appointed to teach 
us religion, for the sake of making us religious. If 
he was, he missed his aim, or rather was faithless to 
his task, because he gave us all the impression (by his 
yawning, by his listless behavior and attitude &c.) 
that he was not with heart and soul engaged in his 
business. So it could not but be a failure. 

A third teacher (he was also court chaplain and the 
director of our Seminary) taught us Bible and ecclesi- 
astical history. He was seriously engaged in what he 
taught, and had, therefore, a decided influence upon 
all of us. According to the bent of mind of the dif- 
ferent students he made some very orthodox, and some 
perhaps more heterodox than they would have been 
without his teaching. He himself was a very orthodox 
Lutheran. He believed and taught that the Mosaic 
account of the Creation, of its six days, &c, were to 
be understood literally ; he believed that Moses had 
known more of natural sciences, than we moderns, 
and was, therefore, right in saying that God created 
the light on the first day, but the sun, moon, and star:; 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



75 



on the fourth day, (the light being a substance in- 
dependent of the heavenly bodies.) He taught us 
that Balaam's ass really had spoken ; that the sun 
really had stood still to give Joshua time to fight his 
battle, which fact, he said, was corroborated by Chinese 
records. 

These few instances will be sufficient to give an 
idea of the spirit in which this teacher tried to influence 
us. He did not carry me the whole length of his 
views. On the contrary, he awakened in me the 
spirit of investigation and of doubt, if it had not been 
awake before. I do not think that I was conscious at, 
or before that time, of wishing to avoid all error, 
superstition, and hypocrisy, and I am sure I did not 
wish to throw off the imaginary, or real yoke of a 
certain creed, or sect. But a spontaneous impulse, or 
various influences led me to take my own views. 

I recollect, one day while walking with a friend, I 
said that " Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," certainly 
were only three different names for three different 
activities or influences of one single being. My friend 
thought he agreed with me, but he would not like to 
hear me say the same thing in the presence of our 
teachers who did not think so. At that time, I had 
never heard of the distinction between Unitarians and 
Trinitarians, but my mind proved thus to have a 
direction even then, which would not make it doubtful 



76 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



which of the two parties I should prefer in later years. 

Our fourth teacher of religion was the general 
Superintendent of the churches and schools, and as 
such the supervisor of our Seminary. 

He was a rationalist, and prohahly from fear that 
we might be too much under opposite influences he 
undertook to instruct us — nominally in catechetics, 
hut effectually in anything he just happened to hit 
upon. He engaged us in dialogues on theological 
subjects, on education, on fine arts, &c. &c, and his 
mode of instruction was most captivating and effective ; 
he knew how to make us think and speak. His lessons 
always seemed to be too short, too few, and too far 
between. 

In a model school which was connected with the 
Seminary, we made, one after the other, attempts at 
giving religious and other instruction, and derived 
great benefit from the advice, hints, and criticisms of 
our teachers, who were present during these exercises. 
In tbe Seminary, we had regular morning and evening 
devotions, and a part of our musical instruction was 
dedicated to the singing of hymns in four parts. The 
latter I recollect, made sometimes really a solemn 
impression on my mind. 

On Sundays we were obliged to go once to church. 
The city (Oldenburg) contained only one Lutheran 
church, though almost all its eight thousand inhabi- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



77 



tants were Lutherans. There were two services in the 
morning, and one in the afternoon. The sixty students 
of the Seminary were divided into four divisions. 
These had to go alternately, one to the first, two to 
the second, and one to the third service — avowedly for 
the purpose of leading the singing. 

In order to complete my sketch of the religious in- 
fluences of this period of my life, I must add one 
thing, which will tend to prove that we are all more 
or less the children of our time, of our country, and 
of chance. We students at the Seminary whose every 
movement was ordered and regulated by one of the 
most orthodox and pious ministers of the country — we 
were allowed now and then to go to the theatre on 
Sundays, but on no other evening in the week. 

After a stay of eighteen months, I was permitted to 
leave the Seminary, and to accept the situation of 
private tutor in the family of a civil officer who was 
chief magistrate, or judge in the most southern county 
of the State. The inhabitants of this portion of the 
state were all Catholics ; only the family with which I 
was to live, and a few other persons were Protestants. 

I sent my baggage to my place of destination, and 
set out alone to travel the distance of sixty miles on 
foot. Towards the close of the first day, I had to 
traverse a heath, where there were no houses and hard- 
ly any trees in sight, on either side of the turnpike. 



78 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



In the midst of this heath, at some distance from the 
turnpike, one sees a large number of enormous unhewn 
stones placed in two rows. The legend calls them the 
Bride of Visbeck. 

It is told that a young lady in the parish of Visbeck 
was urged by her parents to marry a young man whom 
she did not like. She declined, remonstrated, refused, 
but all in vain ; her parents insisted upon it. The 
day for the wedding was appointed ; the bridegroom 
and the guests repaired to the bride's house ; the bride, 
though she declared she would rather be turned into 
stone, than to be married to that unwelcome lover, 
was dressed in bridal attire ; a procession was formed, 
and the whole company set out to walk, two by two, 
to the church. But lo ! on their way the bride's wish 
was fulfilled ; all at once the whole company were 
turned into stone ; and there they stand now, for cen- 
turies, just as their fate overtook them. 

The fact is, one finds here and there in that region 
several similar collections of stones, and sometimes 
there are several large stones in the midst between the 
others, arranged as if they were intended to form a 
rude altar. Historians affirm that here the ancient 
Germans held their assemblies, and performed their 
sacrifices in accordance with the description Tacitus and 
later writers give of them. 

Without taking these historical recollections into 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 79 



consideration, one is apt to be peculiarly affected by 
the appearance of such a large heath as I then 
crossed ; and as I, moreover, was somewhat excited by 
the expectation of what I knew to be before me, this 
lonely walk of about six miles over the heath, is one 
of the most interesting among the recollections of the 
many excursions and rambles I have enjoyed, during 
my life, as a pedestrian. 

When I emerged from this solitary waste, I was in 
a Catholic country. Near the first village I saw a 
crucifix on the road side. 

I knew from books how much reverence the Catho- 
lics showed to these images, which are not only found 
in the churches, and in small chapels outside of towns 
and villages, but are also erected by private persons 
anywhere, on the road side, or in the midst of their 
fields. I did not know whether it was safe for a stran- 
ger to deviate from the usual custom of making a cross, 
or of taking off one's hat ; still my feelings revolted 
against such an act of homage to an image. I looked 
shyly around, and when I saw no one near enough to 
notice me, I followed my inclination and passed by 
" straight as an arrow." 

This first success gave me courage, and I did not 
comply with the custom mentioned. I found afterwards 
that my Catholic friends and acquaintances, at least, 
did not expect me to do as they did ; except perhaps to 



80 



THE PROBLEM OE LIFE, OH 



take off my hat, when passing a funeral, or one of the 
grand processions that marched on certain holy days 
through the streets hehind the host, which was carried 
in pomp by priests walking under a baldachin. 

Such an expectation I found reasonable, especially 
if I put myself into the way of such things. Then 
and ever since, I have considered it my duty, if possi- 
ble, not to hurt any one's feelings, or to disturb his 
devotions by not complying with the established forms 
and rites. If it was my own free will, perhaps even 
mere curiosity, that led me to be present at other peo- 
ple's religious performances, I thought they had a 
right, either to make me comply with their customs, 
or to expel me. If I was forced by circumstances to 
be present at such performances, I thought it was lau- 
dable to behave like the rest, if I did so without being 
guilty of hypocrisy, i. e. if I did not wish from selfish 
motives to appear pious, but wished not to give offence, 
or to be injurious to children, or to grown persons of a 
childlike faith. I have, therefore, with a pure con- 
science knelt as well at that time in Catholic churches, 
as in later years during public and private devotions 
of Episcopalians. 

About six miles from my new residence there was a 
small Protestant congregation. I sometimes went 
over, induced by a feeling of equality, to pay a visit to 
their teacher, and several times I also stopped at the 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 81 

minister's house. The latter and his wife were both 
from the same part of the state wmere I came from. 
If I may say so, they did not feel much at home in 
this oasis in a large Catholic desert, and they felt the 
need of communing with congenial and kindred spirits. 
They received me, therefore, always very kindly, and 
we had many a pleasant conversation which naturally 
often turned upon the difference between Catholicism 
and Protestantism. 

The Protestants and Catholics of this village made 
use of the same church. The latter who were the more 
numerous, used it Sunday mornings before eleven 
o'clock, and in the evening. The former held their 
service a little before noon, and contented themselves 
with a little, very modest looking altar which was erect- 
ed at some distance from the more splendid Catholic 
altar. 

On the whole, I did not go over very often to attend 
this Protestant worship. I went more frequently to 
the Catholic church of the place where I resided. Here 
I found the services for several reasons much more at- 
tractive. It is true, up to this time my life had been 
a very happy one, but it had rather lacked an element 
which I might call a combination of beauty, poetry, 
romance and sensualism. 

I had been born and raised in a fertile region where 
the fields showed for a few summer months, the most 
6 



82 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



exuberant beauty of plenty and utility, but nothing 
else. I had never seen a hill, had never seen during 
my childhood a collection of trees larger than an or- 
chard. I had been a few times on the sea-shore, but 
had never seen any fresh water except in ditches and 
sluggish canals. My education had been plain, though 
in no wise puritanical. The religious ceremonies and 
other such things that I had witnessed, were not calcu- 
lated to develop the element I have spoken of. Almost 
all the inhabitants of that region bore in their char- 
acter, temperament, customs and usages the impress 
of their climate, soil, institutions &c. 

It is true, I had been under the influence of some 
circumstances which could not fail to develop the im- 
agination and an appreciating sense of the beautiful. 
In my childhood my mind had been nourished with 
fairy tales which are certainly, though untrue, yet ad- 
missible and even useful if they do not inculcate really 
superstitious and irreligious views and sentiments. 
When I was about eleven years old, there came a re- 
spectable troop of actors into our place. Some of the 
members were admitted into private society, and some 
private persons assisted them as amateurs to perform 
large pieces. The directress obtained from my parents 
the permission for me to take some appropriate part 
of some plays. I desired nothing more than this, and 
entered into it with great enthusiasm. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 83 



I was thus made familiar with the stage and with 
dramatic poetry, and was led to read the whole of 
Schiller's works in a very short time. This I suppose 
was the cause of my taking it into my head at the 
age of fourteen years, to write a tragedy in four acts 
for a school exercise. My teacher declared it to be a 
very successful attempt, except " in the love scenes." 

Moreover, I had seen a few castles, the remnants of 
feudal times which led my mind to the contemplation 
of the middle ages, so full of chivalry and romance. 
In the town where I went to college, there was a castle 
with a tower 180 feet high and over 600 years old. 
saw near it the entrance of a subterranean passage 
which was said to lead one for 4 miles below the ground. 
But nobody attempted to verify it. About this as 
about other similar things there were wonderful stories 
afloat. In spite of all such things, however, I think 
I was surrounded in my younger years more by pro- 
saic than by poetic influences. 

Now all at once I was transported into a region 
where the landscape was beautifully varied. I could 
sit in the shades of a grove, could muse on the banks 
of a murmuring brook, could wander through lovely 
vales and climb on hills which seemed to me immensely 
high, could look out upon a distant lake and beyond 
upon a beautiful mountain range, could gather, exam- 
ine and admire flowers which I had never seen before, 



84 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



could at night, for the first time in my life, listen to 
the sweet and melancholy sounds of the nightingale, 
which sang below my window in the garden, and very 
soon I could satisfy the longing which the aspect of 
the distant mountains awakened in me. 

During a pedestrian excursion, I visited, among 
others, the ancient cities of Osnabruck and Minden, 
and saw the Porta Westphalica, one of the most beau- 
tiful mountain sceneries in Germany, formed around 
the Weser which flows here at right angles through a 
gap in the mountain range. I recollect I said in a 
description of this journey : If an atheist should 
stand on this mountain top and look upon the land- 
scape around him, I think he would bend his knee in 
adoration., and confess there is a God, there must be a 
God who made this great, beautiful and wonderful 
globe. 

The people with whom I associated about this time, 
were under the influence of a different religion, climate 
and soil, and seemed to me less cold, prosaic, material 
and matter of fact than those of my native province. 

I felt that this change had a great effect on me, and 
the more so, because I had attained just that age, 
(about 17 years) when a person must be influenced by 
such a change if he is susceptible at all. I know I 
have been visionary enough at different times of my 
life, but never very poetic and romantic. Still if ever 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



85 



a spark of such a quality appeared in my life, it must 
have been at this time. And really it never was more 
perceptible than at this period. 

I liked, therefore> to attend the Catholic church. I 
liked to look upon the large congregation which 
thronged the spacious edifice, and filled every corner 
and passage. I liked to hear the solemn chanting of 
the priest if he had " music in him I liked to see the 
thousands of people kneel in apparent humility, at a 
given sign ; I liked the momentary deep silence during 
the offering of the host, interrupted now and then by 
the clear sound of the bell, while burning incense 
seemed to transport one into another sphere ; I liked 
to hear the strains of sacred song arising in unison 
from thousands of voices. Especially did I like during 
passion week to go to church in the evening, to seat 
myself in a corner of the unilluminated edifice, to see 
the priest and a dozen of acolytes approach the altar, 
to hear the latter sing a Latin hymn,, and to see them 
kneel around the altar, dressed in white robes, and 
burning wax candles in their hands. 

Truly there is a certain stage of development, a 
certain state of the mind and heart to which the Cath- 
olic service is admirably adapted. I did not wonder, 
therefore, that my pupils liked to go to the Catholic 
church, nor did I ever try to dissuade them from ac- 
companying me. On the whole I liked the country, 



86 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



the people, and many of their customs and institutions 
so much that the time I spent there, was one of the 
happiest periods of my life, and that I should have 
liked to prolong it, perhaps to the end of my days. 

Nevertheless I can say that I never was tempted to 
become a Catholic. My mind was too far developed to 
be made a captive by appearances. Though at that 
time the Catholic forms might seem to be congenial 
to me, still, I could not accept them connected with 
and inseparable from such monstrous superstition as I 
knew the Catholic creed embodied and enforced. On 
the contrary, by observation, meditation, arguments, 
and occasional conversation with priests and laymen, 
my protestant views became clearer, more decided and 
deeply rooted. 

Catholicism is for an enlightened and well disposed 
mind, a sad subject to dwell upon. Without doubt it 
has a good and salutary element within it. I cannot 
help thinking that God would not have allowed it to 
exist so many centuries, and still to extend over the 
greater part of Christian lands, if it did not serve some 
great end in the development of the human race ; I 
am almost inclined to say, if it was not in itself wor- 
thy to exist. Surely it has aided millions of human 
beings to lead a pious and useful life, and to die in 
peace with God, with the world, and with themselves. 
And if these millions were guided and comforted by 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 87 



a delusive and superstitious faith, what right have we 
to take exception at it ? The only condemnable idola- 
try, as Carlyle says, is insincere idolatry. 

On the other hand, if we read the history of the 
church and see what cruelties and crimes Catholicism 
is guilty of ; if we examine the present spiritual, social 
and political condition of the Catholic nations on the 
earth ; if we consider what dangerous, incredible and 
monstrous things the Catholic church forces individuals 
to believe and to practise (transubstantiation, purga- 
tory, indulgences, and remission, celibacy &c.) — really 
we cannot help feeling sad at the existence of Cathol- 
icism. If it could be purged of its enormities so that 
a priest could be, at the same time, a priest and a think- 
ing and sincerely pious man ; so that a layman could 
be a good Catholic and a sincere, divinely rational 
being ; then I should say, let Catholicism exist until 
the end of the world as the best religion for children, 
and for adults in the lowest stage of spiritual develop- 
ment. But if Catholicism pretends that it is right 
and perfect, as it now exists ; if it fears to fall as soon 
as it changes one iota of its tenets ; then I should wish 
it would fall as soon as possible, and be swept from 
the earth and out of man's recollection. 

After having resided about eighteen months in 
the midst of . a Catholic community, I applied to 
the director of the Seminary for another situation. 



83 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



The government did not usually furnish private fami- 
lies with teachers, and I had only been excused from 
teaching in the schools of the State, principally on 
account of my health. Since the latter now allowed 
me to teach larger classes, I considered it my duty to 
enter into the public service for which I had been 
educated. I was sent to a hamlet where the services 
of a teacher were only needed for the winter. 

My new situation seemed to be destined exactly to 
force me into continuing my meditations and obser- 
vations on the various religious sects. The place was 
situated just on the confines of the catholic and prot- 
estant sections of the State. One or two miles towards 
the west, there was a village in which a protestant, 
and a catholic teacher resided. I walked over once 
or twice every week, and met these two colleagues 
with whom I spent my time very profitably. 

On Sundays I sometimes went to a village situated 
five miles south of us. There I met with a most 
remarkable fact : the Catholics and Protestants used 
the same church, together, and at the same time. 
The services were opened by the first part of the 
mass ; thereupon the Protestants sang a hymn, which 
was selected by their school-teacher (for they had no 
minister of their own) ; then the mass was continued, 
and after the Protestants had again sung one of their 
hymns, the priest finished the mass, and finally 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 89 

preached a sermon to both parties together. What I 
heard there, was quite reasonable, and on the whole, 
the parties got along quite well together, at that time, 
though there had been occasional disputes and scuffles, 
even in the church itself. 

On other Sundays I went to the church of our 
parish, situated four miles north of our hamlet. 
There I spent some delightful clays. The teacher (at 
the same time organist) with whom I associated, was 
one of the most genial persons I ever met with. 1 
often remained over night at his house ; we read and 
conversed much together, and became very familiar, 
and I think useful to each other. I never shall forget 
one remark he happened to make to me. I wish and 
hope, said he, that you sometime will become very 
unhappy. His wish has been fulfilled, and I have 
often thought whether my fate produced the effect 
which I supposed he hoped from it. 

My attendance at public worship I recollect to have 
been sometimes not entirely without effect. My 
friend had a great talent for music, and he played the 
organ in an edifying style. The minister preached 
better than most of those that I had heard before. 
He was a learned man, and I received some useful 
information from him in private conversation. He 
was the first minister whom I heard venturing to say, 
for instance, that the Mosaic account of the Creation 



90 



TIIE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



ought not to be explained literally ; that the word 
"deluge" was not " siindfluth (a flood to punish 
sins, a universal flood) but " sindfluth " (derived from 
the Syrian, or some other oriental language and 
merely signifying a large flood.) 

The remainder of my leisure time during this 
winter I spent in close study and in solitary walks ; 
on the whole, I think very beneficially. A journal 
which I began to keep, gave at least a slight evidence 
of thought and general development. 

In this situation as well as in the preceding and in 
several succeeding ones, my attention was particularly 
directed to the investigation of religious subjects, and 
I studied very carefully several commentaries of the 
Bible, and other practical and theoretical works on 
religion. I did this not from any inward necessity, 
or inclination to piety, but merely because it was in- 
cluded in a careful and conscientious preparation for 
my daily business. 

In the Spring one of my former teachers at the 
Seminary who had always taken a great interest in 
me, induced me again to accept a situation as private 
tutor. In a town just about half way between my 
parents' residence and the capital of the State, there 
was a very wealthy man who intended to let his son, 
a part of the time, go to a high school, which had been 
newly established in the place ; he wished, however, 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



91 



to keep a private tutor besides, who might he a com- 
panion for the boy and try to conquer his very decided 
dislike against study. 

My patron thought, if I accepted this place, I might 
become connected with the high-school, which he be- 
lieved to be the right place for me. I found my new 
situation in many respects a delightful one. My 
salary was very liberal ; my accommodations comfort- 
able, even splendid, and the attendance exceedingly 
good ; only a small portion of my time seriously 
occupied ; my access to refined society directly and 
indirectly facilitated through the family with whom I 
resided. Still the time I spent there, was one of the 
most unhappy periods of my life. Several circum- 
stances combined to deprive me of all peace of mind, 
and where that is wanting, it would seem to me im- 
possible ever to be happy through fortunate outward 
circumstances. 

First, I did not succeed in making my pupil like 
his studies. I tried hard enough to teach him, but 
my character was not calculated to attract him, and 
to carry him along with me, through liveliness, mirth 
and childlike simplicity, nor could I subdue the boy 
into passive obedience and willingness, through stern- 
ness, firmness, and manly superiority. Several years 
afterwards, when I resided in another town, this pupil 
of mine called on me, and his behavior showed that 



'92 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



he wished me well and had learned to appreciate what 
I had tried to do for him. But while I was his teacher, 
our relation became less and less satisfactory. 

Secondly, it was every teacher's duty to show his 
appointment to the minister of the place, in which he 
was to reside. The minister was ex officio the inspector 
of his school, and to the minister he was, for several 
years, obliged every three months to show an essay 
of his own. Now with the church of this town, there 
were connected two ministers. 

Unfortunately my employer introduced me to the 
second, and not to the first. The former was a genial 
person, and with him I remained on good terms, 
though I wrote occasionally a few things in my essays 
which he did not like. The latter, however, was a 
cold, domineering man, and could not brook the slight- 
est sign of neglect, or of independence. Moreover, 
I suspect he knew about my wish of being connected 
with the high school which was under his direction ; 
incautiously I had spoken of it to a protege of his, 
who unexpectedly feared me as a rival. 

With the good intention of making up for former 
neglect, and of originating at the same time a good 
work, I had handed to this minister one of my essays, 
about Sunday schools for apprentices. But instead of 
accepting and viewing it kindly, he tried to use it as 
a means of crushing me. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 93 



He impeached my motives for writing it ; put a 
wrong construction on some parts of it ; on the whole 
criticised it in the hitterest and most malicious way. 
This criticism did me good, because it roused me to a 
deeper investigation of the disputed points and' to the 
writing of a replication, and gave me more firmness, 
independence and prudence. On the other hand, 
however, it caused me great sorrow, about being mis- 
understood, and I fear it also raised in me the spirit 
of bitter opposition to the unjust and galling yoke of 
clercial dominion, under which most of the teachers 
in Germany were chafing with more or less intensity. 

Thirdly, during my sojourn among Catholics the 
spirit of negation had been fostered in me, and into 
this direction my mind was turned more decidedly at 
this time by the reading of Eousseau's Emile. I will 
not condemn this book for I know how much good it 
has done in the world. At present I can read it with 
composure, and pleasure, and without danger. At 
that time, however, I was too young to comprehend it 
fully, and I was not in the right state of mind to be 
benefited by it. 

With books it is as with music, with food, medicine, 
and many other things ; the same thing does not agree 
with eve^body. The same thing does not even have 
at all times the same effect upon the same individual. 
Eousseau's Emile led me at that time only further 



94 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



into doubts about man's destiny, duties and rights, 
into doubts about his relations to God, and to his 
fellow-men. 

These and perhaps some other influences all together 
spurred me on to aspire to higher things, but I hardly 
think that my feelings deserved a better name than 
pride, or ambition. I wrote to my father that I could 
no longer be satisfied with myself and my condition, 
and asked him, if he could not do more, at least to 
let me study for a year at Diesterweg's celebrated 
Seminary in Berlin, or to allow me to come home, and 
to stay there a year occupied in nothing but studying. 
My father, however, would not accede to any of my 
wishes, and desired T might remain in my advantage- 
ous situation. 

I held out for sometime longer until my state of 
mind became utterly intolerable to me. I told my 
employer that I wished to leave, because I thought 
his son would be benefited by only and fully attending 
the high school. I was told they were well satisfied 
with me, and was urged to remain. This gentleman 
on the whole, always treated me very kindly, as he 
did everybody else. He seemed to be a very good 
man, though he never went to church, nor, if I surmise 
rightly, had any positive religious belief. Several 
years afterwards he was led into commercial and in- 
dustrial undertakings, and lost the greater part of 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 95 



his property. He was said then to have attempted 
suicide, which I lamented very much, since it might 
prove that in prosperity he had only heen good from 
habit, or from weakness. 

I persisted in my resolution to give up my situation, 
and asked my father to apply to the government to 
appoint me as his assistant teacher, instead of a 
stranger, who then held that place. My father did 
so, and thus I returned once more under the parental 
roof. 



96 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OB, 



CHAPTER VI. 

EABLY MANHOOD. FIRST PERIOD. 

A considerable change was produced in my mental 
condition by this change of residence and of outward 
circumstances. First the renewal of the most inti- 
mate connection with parents and brothers and sisters 
could not fail to have a beneficial influence on my 
mind. It is true, our family ties had never been 
broken ; but for the last four years I had not been 
able to visit my parents oftener than every six, twelve 
or eighteen months, and thus our intercourse had 
mostly been limited to written communications. 

The possibility of corresponding with relations and 
friends is perhaps sufficient for a satisfactory intellect- 
ual relation between mind and mind, but not for a 
satisfactory intimate relation between heart and heart. 
The direct heartfelt influence of a loving spirit is not 
apt to be transmitted by writing ; it needs, as an 
adequate sphere, the multiplicity, the convenience, 
the trivialities and conventionalities of common inter- 
course and every-day life. In accordance with this 
remark, my stay at home had the tendency to influence 
me in a salutary way, bringing my troubled soul * 
nearer to a desirable state of tranquillity and serenity. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



97 



Secondly, my mind derived great advantage from 
the circumstance, that I had an immense amount of 
labor to perform. Early in the morning I instructed 
a younger brother of mine, whom my father, on my 
return home, had taken away from the burgher-school 
of the neighboring city. During the day, I acted as 
my father's assistant, and taught for six (during the 
Summer for seven) hours, about one half of his one 
hundred and seventy scholars. And teaching in a 
public school in Germany is a very, very laborious work, 
because the prevailing method there requires so much 
oral instruction and direct exertion of the teacher. 
In the evening I gave instruction to some private 
scholars in several higher branches which needed much 
preparation on my part. 

Besides I was induced to open a gymnasium during 
a part of the year. The exercises and duties devolv- 
ing upon me through this institution made a consider- 
able demand on my time, though on the other hand I 
acknowledge that I owe to gymnastics, at this, and at 
other times, the preservation of a sufficient degree of 
health, perhaps of life itself. 

Furthermore, I wrote some very elaborate essays 
which I delivered to the minister of the parish, in 
accordance with the regulation I have spoken of on a 
former occasion. Now and then I also wrote some 
articles for periodicals and newspapers, and tried, in 



98 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



addition, by reading to remain familiar with the pro- 
gressive literature of my profession. 

This vast amount of labor, however, did not entirely 
absorb all my time. I could always eke out some 
leisure hours. But as I was inclined, induced and 
obliged to spend these hours in society, I was not 
tempted to indulge in private and silent meditations, 
and I must, therefore, adduce sociability as a third 
cause for my being led into other channels of thought 
and feeling. I will not decide whether the change 
was entirely and exclusively for the better. 

I will give the reader a picture of my life at that 
time, as far as it related to society. This will be 
partly applicable to German life in general. And, 
though, of course, allowances must be made on all 
sides for modulations according to places, times and 
individuals, still I think the reader will be able to 
form a somewhat correct idea of the influences for good 
or bad which German life would seem to have on the 
religion and morals of individuals. 

My position in the midst of all the people around 
me, was extremely flattering. Though I was only 21 
years of age, and though I had been known at home 
all along, as a boy, and as a youth, still I had not the 
slightest difficulty in taking my position as a man, 
and as the equal of the most prominent members of 
the community. I certainly did not find the saying 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 99 



verified " a prophet is not without honor, save in his 
own country." My position, however, did not involve 
me in a regular round and routine of " calls," such as 
one's social position in any New England village inva- 
riably requires. At home I never saw people go to 
other people's houses, because their social duties re- 
quired them to do so. They usually went either on 
business, or on invitation. If they did go at any other 
time, it was in the most unceremonious way, without 
thinking whether it was " their turn v &c. They went 
because they felt like it, and stayed as long as they 
pleased. I had no idea at that time that I should ever 
go into a house Jfor five or ten minutes merely for the 
sake of " making a call." 

My parents, the minister, the government's admin- 
istrator, some merchants, a few of the better class 
among the farmers, on the whole, the aristocracy of the 
place, formed by mutual consent a circle of acquaint- 
ances who invited each other, especially in the winter 
about the time of beef and hog-killing. As there 
were no butchers in places like that one, the latter 
circumstance was an important item. 

The company who had been invited several days 
beforehand, met at their host's house about 4 o'clock 
P. M., usually on Sundays. All the ladies and gentle- 
men were seated around a large table ; they conversed 
while they enjoyed a cup of coffee and a variety of 



100 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



cake. The gentlemen smoked a pipe at the same time. 

About 6 or 7 o'clock the gentlemen were seated at 
the card table, after having been out perhaps to admire 
the horses and cattle belonging to the host, which were 
always kept in fine stables being under the same roof 
with the dwelling. 

Sometimes one or the other of the ladies might assist 
in making up the necessary number at a card table, 
but usually they conversed in the mean time, knitting, 
eating cakes and fruit and perhaps sipping their wine, 
while the gentlemen drank theirs. 

About ten o'clock the whole company sat down to a 
sumptuous supper, consisting of several kinds of meat 
and a variety of accompanying dishes, and of a suffi- 
cient supply of wine. After supper the company re- 
tained their seats, and while engaged in the most lively 
conversation, they took tea somewhere about midnight, 
and reached home, thereupon, at or sometime after one 
o'clock. 

If the fare on such occasions was rather sumptuous, 
we must not conclude from this that the people usually 
were high livers. On the contrary, these occasions were 
only welcome interruptions in the routine of a most 
simple, frugal and economical domestic life. 

Most of these families were accustomed, on week 
days to breakfast on coffee and brown bread, to dine 
on one kind of vegetables and a very small piece of 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 101 



meat, and to sup on boiled buttermilk. It is certainly 
very desirable to have the facility of procuring ample 
and luxurious means of sustenance at any time, and 
every American ought to thank God that there has 
hardly been a time when a healthy and industrious 
man, within the limits of this Union, could not make 
a little more than a comfortable living. Still, it is 
doubtful whether it is best always to have so good 
breakfasts and dinners as even the lower classes in this 
country enjoy, or to be frugal in the main, and to in- 
dulge one's appetite only at longer or shorter intervals. 

Kabelais says with some truth " mirthfulness comes 
from the stomach ; " and as dyspepsia, hypochondria, 
gloominess and despondency are often the consequence 
of high living, but never of frugality, a joyous temper 
has much to do with a person's morals and religion. 
The customs and habits I have mentioned, as well as 
those I am about to mention, may therefore not be so 
triflmg and so far out of the range of my present un- 
dertaking, as they might, at first sight, seem to be. 

A second and very prominent part of our social 
enjoyments consisted in dancing. The landlords of 
a few of the hotels and inns in our village and in the 
surrounding places, arranged during the winter each 
about four subscription balls, and the landlords of the 
remaining public houses received permission from the 
court each to hold at least one ball in the course of 



102 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



the season. These balls were only frequented by the 
so called higher classes of the community, and though 
these gatherings were not exclusive, still they were 
not disturbed by any unwelcome intruders. In Ger- 
many every one seems, so to say, to know his station, 
and the lower classes do not have the desire to mingle 
with the higher classes, and to rival with them in show, 
expenses, modes of enjoyment &c. As a usual thing, 
every one goes where he knows he finds his equals 
and where he is welcome. 

The court allowed the landlords on other days, 
(always on Sundays) to give the farmers' helps and 
others, an occasion to dance. 

Most of us, young and old, attended balls quite reg- 
ularly, and many a time we marched for a mile or two 
across meadows and fields, through mud and rain, 
through snow-drifts, storm and darkness, after having 
danced from 8 o'clock in the evening until 3, 4, 5 or 
6, in the morning. 

During the winter, the roads in our alluvial soil were 
often impassable, and no one could rely on horses for 
locomotion ; but even at other times the farmers them- 
selves and their ladies would walk in preference to 
riding. Our ladies were as healthy and robust a set 
of people as I have ever seen anywhere. 

At a ball every young man danced first with his 
mother and with other elderly female relatives and 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 103 



acquaintances, and afterwards with his younger lady 
friends. Among the latter it was not really the 
youngest ones that were most desired as partners. Ger- 
man girls are not so early developed as American girls, 
and therefore not so early attractive and not so early 
considered as equals in the society of grown people. 
On the other hand, however, young ladies were not in 
danger of being counted so soon among " old maids." 
Thus, I think the age between 20 and 25 years was 
the culminating period of a lady's attractiveness at 
balls and other such places. 

The fondness for dancing which we find to be preva- 
lent among the Germans, has several causes, one of 
which I will mention. Dancing is a necessary institu- 
tion to produce and facilitate sociability between unmar- 
ried people. In Germany a married lady is neither 
under too little, nor too much restraint. The wedding 
is for her not the event which closes the time " when 
she could enjoy herself." On the contrary, she can 
now participate in all that is going on around her, and 
married and unmarried men pay her now more atten- 
tion and homage than before. An unmarried lady 
who is engaged, is also well provided for. As soon as 
her betrothal is made public (and this is done forthwith 
by sending cards, merely containing the two names, to 
all her friends,) and as soon as she and her intended 
have made the customary round of visits to their 



104 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



friends, they can go together to any place of amuse- 
ment : on the whole, their social intercourse is unre- 
strained. 

But as for the rest, unmarried ladies in the hotter 
classes of society are under great restraint. They do 
not receive calls from young men all to themselves ; 
they are not invited and would not dare to accept an 
invitation from a young man to go with him alone to 
a concert, a hall &c. ; at a party they have to he mod- 
est, quiet, retiring ; on going home, no one of them 
is ashed by a young man whether " he shall have the 
pleasure to see her home." No, on all occasions the 
mothers and aunts take care of the young ladies, or 
send a faithful and trusty maid servant after them. 

Under such circumstances, dancing is often the only 
occasion where the young people can throw off their 
reserve, and where they can fully enjoy each other's 
society. No wonder, then, that they should often pro- 
long their halls almost until the dawn of day. 

No wonder that an occasion for dancing was welcome 
at any time. The halls I have spoken of, were all held 
during the winter ; but the summer also brought many 
occasions for dancing — at fairs, target-shootings &c. 

Even at the present time, with very different views 
of life, I cannot say that T look back with sorrow upon 
the many precious hours I have seemingly wasted in 
dancing. Those occasions might induce many a young 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 105 



man to indulge during the pauses too freely in drink- 
ing and smoking. And though, on many occasions, I 
may have entered the schoolroom on such mornings 
after a hall, wearied in body, yet I recollect I felt 
enlivened and refreshed in soul and spirit, and was, 
therefore, working to greater advantage than at other 
times. The dancing itself and the intercourse with 
the other sex which it brought about, will ever be 
remembered by me as a pure, innocent and desirable 
social enjoyment, and though I know that it is liable 
to be abused as well as every other good thing, I should 
not like to condemn it in toto, as a snare of the devil. 

Another source of enjoyment I found in a glee-club 
which I formed soon after my return home, on the plan 
of those, of which I had been a member in larger 
places. 

If Americans believe that the Germans are particu- 
larly a Musical Nation, they are mistaken as far as 
the North Western part of Germany is concerned. 
There I should much sooner, even in this century, 
renew the complaint of Bonifacius who compared the 
singing of the ancient Germans to the rumbling of a 
wagon over a road made of logs. It is true, almost 
every boy and every girl of the higher classes learned 
music as a part of a complete education, but as to the 
lower classes in the cities and the country people on 
the whole, there was very little music among them. 



106 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



My father had a harpsichord, but that was the only 
instrument of that kind in the village and neighbor- 
hood, and only here and there a single flute, or violin 
might be found. There was not much singing to be 
heard, and that which might be heard, was not of the 
best description and not occasioned by the best motives. 

It is true, in all my experience with hundreds of 
scholars, I met very seldom a child that could not 
sing a note, but such an entire absence of latent musi- 
cal talent is also very rare among people of other 
nations. 

The glee-club, which I organized, was the first one 
formed in a village, in that region. With persons, 
many of whom did not know the notes, I had a very hard 
time of it, and was obliged to use the violin to guide 
one part, and to help with my voice in either of the 
other parts. But it was a labor of love, and therefore, 
it did not seem hard to me. By weekly exercises, I 
succeeded so far that we could celebrate our first anni- 
versary publicly and to every body's satisfaction, and 
I had the pleasure to see that within a short time the 
inhabitants of eight neighboring villages followed our 
example, and that glee-clubs became one of the ele- 
ments of social enjoyment in that region. 

On days and evenings when I was not induced to 
dedicate my leisure hours to any of the subjects I have 
mentioned so far, I went to a club which was held every 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 107 



evening alternately in the two principal hotels (or 
rather inns) of the place. 

During the winter, the time was spent in playing 
cards. The minister, and a few other dignitaries of 
the village, were the most regular attendants. A min- 
ister was the person that induced me, when I was ahout 
16 years old, for the first time to play cards at a pub- 
lic house. We always played for money, though not 
at a very high rate. It was very rare that one lost, 
or gained more than half a dollar during an evening. 
In summer, the cards rested for the most part, and the 
evenings were spent in playing nine-pins. This game 
was by itself a very healthy exercise, but it was some- 
times rather too exciting, since it was played for 
money, and always by two antagonistic parties who, of 
course, watched every throw of their partners as well 
as of their opponents, especially the last decisive 
throws of every round. 

From the whole preceding account it will be evident 
that I had not a minute left to spend on independent 
philosophical, abstract, or religious meditations, and 
I have now only to show whether religion did not enter 
into public life, or into my private life, in such a way 
as to have at least now and then some influence on my 
mind. To this end I will give a brief account of the 
general state of affairs concerning religious matters. 

To conclude from the footprints past times have left 



108 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



in that region, one would think that its inhabitants, 
several centuries ago, were a very religious people. 
There is one custom, which I think, is very beautiful, 
and though it may be, for the most part, thoughtlessly 
complied with, still I cannot help believing that it had 
its origin in a truly religious spirit. When a person 
passes by a garden, a field &c. where one, or several per- 
sons are at work, he says " Good day, God help," and 
the individuals spoken to reply " Good day, I thank !" 

The churches there are numerous, and very few of 
them were built during the last two centuries. The 
parishes contain only from 300 to 1800 inhabitants, 
and thus one meets on travelling through the country, 
a " church village " every two or three miles. Most 
of the churches are very spacious, and are built of 
large granite blocks which are not found in the neigh- 
borhood, and must have been brought from afar, at 
great expense. 

The belfry is usually built near the church, and the 
latter is not adorned with a steeple. In the belfry 
there are generally three bells, and these are rung 
on all possible occasions, singly, or together in differ- 
ent combinations. It required seven persons to ring 
the bells which were under the charge of my father 
(as teacher, organist and church warden), 4 persons 
for one, 2 for the other, and 1 for the third. I re- 
member with delight how beautiful it seemed to me 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 109 



on a calm Sunday morning to hear the bells of 5 or 
6 neighboring villages, sending their sweet and solemn 
harmonies through the reposing atmosphere. 

Almost all the churches are richly endowed with 
real estate, which was given them by the builders, or 
in subsequent times, (though not of late) by parish- 
ioners as a legacy. There were churches that could 
be supported without any taxes being levied for such 
a purpose. 

I do not know whether building churches and going 
to church were then an index of the moral and re- 
ligious state of communities and individuals, with 
any greater or inferior accuracy than now. However, 
so much is known, that in feudal times, the " Younk- 
ers " (a princely aristocracy of our region) used the 
churches as fortresses, when they, in their petty war- 
fare, were urged too closely by their adversaries. 
Many churches were perhaps built with this end in 
view, or, at least, with an eye to such an emergency ; 
the thick walls, the small and elevated windows &c. 
prove this. 

Moreover, the churches which were built on small 
hills, were places of refuge when the North Sea broke 
through the then very imperfect dykes, and inundated 
the whole level region. As late as 1825 there was 
such an inundation. As I was then 4 years old, I 
have a slight recollection of seeing the water around 



110 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



our house, of our having the furniture carried into 
the church and our cattle driven upon the grave-yard 
which surrounded the church. And we ourselves 
went to the minister's house which was situated higher 
than ours. When the water subsided, and the roads 
became passable, a number of drowned persons were 
brought to the grave-yard. 

Not far from us there was a bay which had been 
formed several centuries ago during such an inundation 
which had swept away seven parishes. 1 visited this 
bay several times. During ebb-tide one could go out 
a distance beyond the dyke to a small hill which still 
showed the foundation of one of the churches that 
were destroyed. As I spoke of not knowing whether 
there was really more religion in old times than now, 
I will notice one tradition connected with the event, I 
have just recalled. It is related that those 7 parishes 
were swept away, because their inhabitants were so 
wicked. Among others things, it is said, for instance, 
that a farmer sent for a clergyman to administer the 
rite of " communion " to his dying wife ; but the 
minister on his arrival found on the supposed death- 
bed, a — pig, instead of a woman. 

The inhabitants of my native province, while I 
lived among them, did not thus boldly defy and mock 
religion and its ministers, but on the other hand they 
envinced very little interest in them, and had on the 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. Ill 



whole very little to do with them. There was always 
a sufficient number of young men who acquired at 
college a thorough education, and who went thereupon 
to a university there to study theology. After their 
return home, they were examined by the consistory 
(the state's church government), and if they passed 
this examination, they were allowed to preach occa- 
sionally. According to the evidence of scholarship 
they had given in this first examination, they could 
apply for a second examination; the best of them 
after one, the others after two, or three years. Having 
passed this second ordeal, they were allowed not only 
to preach, but also to administer the sacraments. But 
they had to bide their time to become settled ministers. 

When a minister died, or if a parish needed, for 
some other reason, a minister, the government selected 
a person to fill this vacancy. If the place was one 
richly endowed, the government chose from out of the 
ministers who were not quite so well paid, that one 
who had been the greatest number of years in his 
actual situation. The place then vacated was again 
filled on the same principle, and so on, until a place 
for a beginner was opened, and there the government 
sent the oldest of the unemployed candidates of 
divinity. It was a rarity, if any minister, or candi- 
date was preferred and advanced on any other ground 
than age and length of service. 



112 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



It is true, the ministers lived principally on the 
income of the landed estate with which their places 
had been endowed in old times, and on fees, which had 
to be paid for every funeral, marriage and baptism, 
and on produce, (grain, bread, cheese, milk, meat &c.) 
which the farmers were obliged to contribute every 
year (as a kind of tithe I suppose.) Thus the largest 
salaries of the ministers were not made up by the 
heaviest direct taxes. Still it was hard for the parishes 
with the richest churches and parsonages, in conse- 
quence of the above-mentioned arrangement always 
to have the oldest and most inefficient ministers, and 
thus to derive very unwelcome fruits from their parish 
treasures. 

The oldest ministers were the most inefficient, not 
only on account of their age. A young man who 
had recently and freshly come from his books and 
from other sources of learning, might hold out for a 
few years and show some scientific zeal, though he 
might not have the remotest idea that religious zeal 
was the kind of enthusiasm he and others ought to 
wish to find in him. But even that scientific zeal 
could not fail to vanish very soon. What was there 
to keep his zeal alive, or to infuse any into him, if 
there wa3 none ? The people had not wished, or 
bidden him to come ; perhaps they had never seen him, 
or heard of him before his installation. They took 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 113 



him because they could not help it, or because they 
thought it was none of their business to have any 
opinion about the matter. Why should he try to do 
anything particularly for his parishioners ? He had 
not come among them, because he liked them, or 
because he thought he had a mission from God, for 
the welfare of immortal souls. 

To be a minister was the way he had chosen for the 
sake of getting through this life. There was a parish ; 
he was sent to be its minister until he should get a 
better situation. And then, why should he even strive 
to deserve and soon to reach a better situation, by 
good behavior, good preaching &c. ? He knew he 
would be promoted, anyhow, in his turn. 

The consequence was this. The ministers preached 
once every Sunday, and on every Christian festival 
(Christmas &c.) because this was a business imposed 
upon them by the church laws. They had received a 
good education, and their sermons, therefore, could 
not be all poor ; still, on the whole, I think the preach- 
ing was not effective, because it was a mere matter of 
routine, a sounding brass. 

The ministers performed the baptismal and mar- 
riage rites, and officiated at funerals if they were 
particularly called upon and paid. They kept the 
parish registers of these events, and they acted as 
superintendents of the parish schools, and as chairmen 
8 



114 THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 

of the boards of overseers of the poor. Very few of 
them had any idea of ever paying* pastoral visits. 
They went where they were invited, to such feasts as I 
have described above. And the minister of whom I 
have spoken as my companion in playing cards and 
nine-pins, dancing and drinking at balls &c., was no 
exception. Most other ministers did the same. 

The people looked upon such worldliness either 
with indifference, or with approbation. Their indif- 
ference, or submissiveness, or want of feeling (or 
whatever one may call it) went even so far, that I 
know of instances where they were satisfied with 
keeping for many years, a minister among them, who 
was known to have committed flagrant crimes. It 
was a thing hardly ever heard of, that a minister 
should be removed on the wish of his parishioners. 
What did they care, who was their minister ? If he 
let them alone, and if he was a man they could toler- 
ably well get along with, he might stay if he liked, 
take it easy and preach to empty pews if this pleased 
him, or sometimes not at all, if he liked that better. 

I was once told of a minister in a small parish who 
went for a month to the church always with the same 
sermon in his pocket without finding an audience 
before which to deliver it. The parish in which my 
father was organist, consisted of about 1800 persons, 
and the usual attendance at church on common Sun- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



115 



days ranged between 30 and 50 individuals. Later I 
played the organ in a town of 4 or 5000 inhabitants 
with only one church. There were morning and 
afternoon services. In the former, I counted usually 
about 50 persons present, in the latter about 6 or 10. 

Under such circumstances, ministers could hardly be 
expected to be zealous in their calling, for as I have 
intimated, there was nothing that would be likely 
inwardly to develop religious sentiments in their souls 
individually ; there was nothing in their surroundings 
that could act as a stimulus outwardly ; the govern- 
ment even provided her foster children only with plenty 
of food and raiment, but did hardly anything to develop 
their spiritual life and influence. All it did, consisted 
in sending every two, three, or four years a committee 
successively into all the parishes. It was composed of 
the general superintendent, (somewhat like a bishop) 
and a civil officer or magistrate. The former was to 
look into the spiritual concerns of the churches and 
schools, and the latter into the management of their 
temporal affairs. Accordingly one day was appointed 
for " school visitation " and another for church 
visitation. 

The latter was hardly more than a mere form. The 
minister had to preach and to catechize in the presence 
of the superintendent. The principal event of the 
day was a grand dinner which the minister gave to his 



116 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



guests and to the dignitaries of the parish, and for 
which he was reimbursed from the church funds. The 
people, therefore, liked to call these stated visitations, 
Kwclicn (kitchen) visitations instead of Kirchen 
(church) visitations. 

Thus religion entered into public life and into the 
life of individuals for the most part only so far as the 
laws of the state made it obligatory. The few even 
who voluntarily engaged in some act of public wor- 
ship, seemed hardly to be animated by any spiritual 
or religious thought or feeling. And private worship 
there was none, for neither single households were in 
the habit of keeping family worship, nor did friends 
or neighbors meet for any such purpose. If they had 
done the latter, the police, probably, would have dis- 
turbed their meetings. This happened, at least, a few 
years after the time I have been speaking of, when 
the Methodists began to send emissaries into that part 
of the country. 

Considering these circumstances I cannot find it 
strange that religion, at that time, should have entered 
into my life, merely as a matter of business. More- 
over, since my father was so sickly that he was entirely 
confined to the house during the greater part of the 
year, I had to perform that part of his duties (or his 
business) which related to the religious institutions of 
the community. This caused me still more decidedly 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



117 



to have no spiritual concern in religious matters. 

On Sunday mornings, I went to church to play the 
organ which I liked very much and which was really 
now and then edifying to me, viz. if on a festive occa- 
sion there was a larger congregation than usual, so 
that their singing would rise majestically and sol- 
emnly above the sounds of the organ. Congregational 
singing, or a large choir is necessary to bring out the 
character and effect of a simple hymn ; the singing of 
a small choir and especially of a quartett is a lament- 
able innovation as to this kind of music. I was, 
therefore, glad that there was hardly anywhere a choir 
in the churches of my native country. The singing, 
however, was spoiled by another thing ; it was too 
slow, and the organist, moreover, had to play a short 
interlude, not only between every two stanzas but even 
between every two lines ; a means of badly mangling* 
and destroying the thoughts and feelings of almost 
every sentence. 

The other parts of the services I hardly noticed. 
The minister read his prayers from a book containing 
a collection of formulas, probably published by the 
government ; but about their style and contents I rec- 
ollect nothing. The sermons were not calculated to 
arrest my attention, or that of any other person. 

After the sermon, the minister catechized the older 
scholars of the parish school collected in the aisle, but 



lis 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



all the younger teachers of that time, who had "been 
educated in the teacher's Seminary, believed to under- 
stand " that business " much better than the ministers, 
i 

and looked with compassion upon their crude and 
unskilful mode of teaching. If there was a baptism 
to be performed after the services, I had to send warm 
water to the font, for which service my father received 
4 cts, while the minister made 8 cts by the perform- 
ance itself. Both of us were usually as expeditious 
as possible in performing all these duties, and as soon 
as the door of the church was locked, I should almost 
say, religion was laid aside for the remainder of the 
day, and if possible for the remainder of the week. 

Daring the week, however, we were sometimes sum- 
moned to attend a marriage; the minister in his offi- 
cial capacity, since civil marriage was not allowed ; I, 
. usually as a guest, except on particularly splendid 
occasions, where I was required to take about a dozen 
of school-boys with me to sing before and after the 
wedding ceremony. The latter, however, was always 
the most unimportant part of the whole celebration. 
Sometimes the dancing began soon after the religious 
act and lasted often until the next morning. The 
father of the bride, or the minister used to open the 
ball with the bride. The wedding sometimes lasted 
three days, though of late not so often as in old times. 

The way in which the minister and I and the 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 119 



church-bells were concerned in funerals, depended upon 
the* money that was paid. I forget what fees the min- 
ister received. My father was paid 30 cts for the funer- 
al of a child (the hells ringing a quarter of an hour) ; 
GO cts for the funeral of a grown person in the evening, 
unattended by the minister and organist, (the hells 
ringing an hour at noon) ; 72 cts for a funeral in the 
afternoon. On the latter occasions the hells rang 
during the burial, as well as the day before at noon, 
one hour. I had to meet the funeral procession at the 
gate of the church-yard. The minister and I went in 
front of it with a dozen or two of boys, singing while 
we slowly walked round the cemetery and into the 
church. Here the bier was placed in the aisle ; some 
hymns were sung ; the minister preached a funeral 
sermon, and read a short sketch of the life of the 
deceased which had been written by the organist. 
Then the procession was formed again and proceeded 
to the grave where the coffin was deposited while a 
hymn was sung. 

Now and then there was a funeral with some 
additional solemnities on which occasion the organist 
received $5,00. The minister and I and the singers 
must then go to the house of mourning. There 
the former and I were placed in the seats of honor 
among the numerous guests. We and all the other 
men smoked out of long, white, earthen pipes, drank 



120 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



coffee, and partook afterwards of a frugal repast of 
bread, cheese and small-beer. Then after the funeral 
sermon had been preached over the corpse, I and the 
boys were seated on the vehicle which opened the train, 
and before every house we passed on the road, we must 
sing a stanza of a hymn. 

The coffin was placed on a second vehicle, and this 
was followed by other carriages, containing the mourn- 
ing friends and guests. At the church, the same rites 
were performed which I have described above, but in 
addition the organ was played, and the church (as it 
was now evening) was illumined by a great many can- 
dles. At the grave, one boy who was usually chosen 
on account of being the best singer, had to stand very 
near the grave and to sing a solo alternating with the 
chorus of the others, and representing the departed 
spirit. 

I have thus given a description of the mode in which 
religion was connected with public life, and as it 
appeared on the surface in the life of individuals. And 
I have very little reason to believe that there was much 
internal and invisible religious life. It is true, a per- 
son may make very little show of religion and may 
still have built an altar in his heart. Thus I remem- 
ber that my mother who made no pretensions to 
appearing as a religious person, once said to me : " she 
had prayed many a time that I might become a good 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 121 

man, and hoped her prayer might be granted." This 
one word was to me a greater proof of her inward reli- 
gious life, than many so called religious acts would 
have been. 

Of myself, I also must say that I was not entirely 
lost to religious thoughts, feelings and conversation. 

I remember, I came home one evening from the club 
later than usual. My mother who had been waiting 
and watching for me, expressed her fear that I had 
been dissipated. I told her " quite the contrary." I 
had forgotten the time over a conversation with a 
friend who had said among other things, " if there 
was no God, the government ought to make one," and 
I had tried to strengthen him in the belief in the 
existence of God. 

From this incident, it appears that I was not an 
atheist, or an infidel. Still I think I could not have 
called myself a religious man. I say this not on 
account of my not believing in all the doctrines of the 
Catholic, the Lutheran, or the Calvinistic church, but 
because I think religion was not the only, or even prin- 
cipal motive of my actions. I did a vast deal of 
labor, and I hope I did a great deal of good and but 
little harm. I say, but little harm, because I think 
that teachers and physicians ought not to be too sure 
of doing no harm. A person belonging to either of 
these professions, may he be ever so skilful and con- 



122 



THE PKOBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



scientious, is apt sometimes to make a mistake in the 
treatment of those he practises on. Still this fact need 
not discourage him ; he is allowed to continue his pro- 
fession, if he knows he is as fit for it as most other 
people would be in his stead. 

Whatever good I did, was, however, not the embod- 
iment of a really religious feeling. A part of my 
labors I performed merely because it was my business ; 
a part because I earned advantages and honor from it, 
and a part because I liked to do it. As to that part of 
my time which I spent in society, I cannot look back 
upon it with remorse, taking it on the whole. Over 
those enjoyments I did not neglect my duties, since I 
was no idler, but bore at least the average share of 
the work mankind has to perform. I withheld from 
nobody what was due to him ; 1 earned enough to have 
ample means to meet all my expenses. I did not set 
a bad example, because the national conscience, so to 
say, did not condemn our mode of enjoying ourselves. 
Thus on the one hand I must say, that considering the 
circumstances, my life at that time was not a worthless 
one, though on the other hand, I should not allow my- 
self now to live it over again exactly in the same way. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 123 



CHAPTER VII. 

EARLY MANHOOD. SECOND PERIOD. 

How long I should have wished to remain in the 
position I have described, I do not know. I was called 
away from it, when I had as yet no desire to leave it. 
The college in the neighboring town had lost its teacher 
of gymnastics who had received a call to the capital 
of the state. It was hard to find a successor to fill his 
place, as teachers of gymnastics were rare at that time. 
The director of the college, my former teacher there, 
had heard of my being engaged in teaching this branch 
of education, and desired to procure my services. He 
could not offer me a sufficient salary, but there hap- 
pened to be a vacancy, at the girls' school of the city. 
He mentioned, therefore, to the superintendent of the 
schools the expediency of inducing the government to 
appoint me as teacher in that school, so that he at the 
same time might avail himself of my services as 
teacher of gymnastics. His wish was granted, and 
I received the appointment quite unexpectedly. 

My father and I were not pleased with it. Perhaps 
the government would not have forced me to accept 
the situation, if I had refused it. But my father did 
not like to injure the feelings of the superintendent. 



124 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



The latter was his friend ; he was the minister who 
had baptized me, had known and liked me as a child, 
and had believed now to confer a favor upon me. 
Moreover, my father thought the city would be a better 
place for me to enter upon a successful career. I 
accepted, therefore, the offered situation. 

I was connected with the girls' " town school 99 for 
five years. I entered as the youngest or the fifth in 
the corps of teachers, but about eighteen months later 
there was another vacancy, and I was promoted to the 
place of the fourth teacher, and about two years after- 
wards I was made third teacher. Our school contained 
about three hundred girls. The first class was a select 
school with twenty scholars, the second contained sixty, 
the third eighty, the fourth and fifth each seventy 
pupils. "We taught five hours a day. Most of the 
time I was engaged in my own class, but the French, 
writing, drawing and (for some time)the singing lessons 
in the two upper classes, were entrusted to me. In 
consequence of this, I had always a number of private 
pupils from the second class who wished especially to 
prepare themselves for entering the select class. 

During the day, I gave some other private lessons; 
I was appointed as writing master in one of the classes 
of the college ; in the evening I directed the gymnas- 
tic exercises of the seventy students of the college. 
Besides, I taught gymnastics to a private class of small 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 125 



boys, and for some time to a class of grown men. For 
two summers, I walked once every week over to another 
town, to teach gymnastics there for two hours, and 
walked hack the six miles, the same day. For several 
years, I walked on Saturdays over to my parents' home, 
to lead the glee-club there whose members thought 
they could not do without me. 

Thus I led again a very active life, and the affair 
turned out much better than I had expected. I had 
hesitated to accept the situation of fifth teacher there, 
partly on account of the pitifully small salary connect- 
ed with it (eighty dollars a year and free lodging) 
and still even during the first year, I made money 
enough. And a few years later, at the age of twenty- 
six years, I had an income as large as most teachers 
obtained only at the age of forty or fifty years, and 
some, perhaps, never in their whole lives. My social 
life became, from year to year, more satisfactory. 

In the higher classes of German society, there exists 
a prejudice which I might call partly the effect of a 
real aristocracy of learning, partly the remnant of 
ancient barriers of custom, rank and privileges. I 
have no personal experience of the pride and haughti- 
ness of a feudal aristocracy of nobility, since my native 
state fortunately had got rid of this aristocracy of the 
" shot-pouch," as Carlyle calls it. There were some 
noblemen at court, who had mostly come over from 



126 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



other states, but they were dependent 011 court favors 
and salaries, and had no prerogatives out of their 
proper sphere. 

We had, however, a half real, half imaginary aris- 
tocracy of learning. The government officers, minis- 
ters, lawyers and physicians who had all been obliged 
to spend three or four years at the university, usually 
considered themselves superior to everybody who had 
not " studied." There may have been a time when 
knowledge and education were found nowhere except 
among the " studied " classes, but that time had passed. 
Especially had the teachers' Seminaries for the last 
thirty years educated a class of men who had in some 
respects a superior education, and the burgher schools 
began in opposition to colleges and universities to send 
forth their pupils educated by the means of mathe- 
matics and natural sciences, in preference to the ancient 
languages. Still, the aristocracy of learning were gen- 
erally not willing to admit any persons thus educated, 
into their society as equals. Some of the wealthier 
merchants were admissible on account of their money 
and their daughters. Very few others succeeded in 
gaining admittance. I was, however, fortunate enough 
to overcome this prejudice, and was admitted on equal 
terms into all the circles of the higher classes of society 
in the city. 

Nevertheless, this circumstance had not the effect 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



127 



to separate me from the primary teachers, and espe- 
cially it did not prevent me from sharing in their gen- 
eral antipathy against ministers as a class. According 
to law, ministers were the local superintendents of all 
the schools, and very ample power was given them to 
assist, or to check the teachers, to interfere, to rule, 
to domineer. This might have been a wise measure 
in former centuries. But now the teachers understood 
and performed their business infinitely better than the 
ministers could or would understand and perform either 
their own business, or that of the teachers. No won- 
der, therefore, that the latter should chafe under the 
galling yoke imposed upon them, especially if this 
yoke was made more oppressive by perverseness, or 
haughtiness on the part of the superintendent. I sup- 
pose many of the teachers would have been willing to 
have superintendents chosen from among the people, 
or chosen by the people from among the ministers, 
but they could not be satisfied with being made, indis- 
criminately, the subjects and humble servants of the 
ministers. 

As soon as I had accepted the situation I have 
spoken of, I had ample reason for being, for my part, 
strengthened in this aversion against the existing reg- 
ulations. The school committee, and the second min- 
ister of the parish church who was our local superin- 
tendent, had a grudge against one of the older teachers 



128 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



of our school, and had hired two very miserable lodg- 
ing rooms for him. He refused to take them, and as 
they did not dare to force him, they thought they had 
a good opportunity of getting rid of the matter by 
giving those rooms to me, a new comer and a young 
man. I disappointed them by refusing in my turn. 
The minister tried to persuade me, then to frighten 
me into yielding. 

Thereupon I was ordered to appear before the con- 
sistory (our ecclesiastical tribunal) where they also 
tried to persuade and to threaten me into acquiescence. 
As there was no inclination on either side to give up, I 
told them I should appeal to the central government 
and even to the Grandduke himself. So I did, explain- 
ing very minutely how shabbily my superiors intended 
to treat me. The result was, that they received a 
warning admonition, and that they had to pay me a 
sufficient sum of money wherewith to procure lodgings 
for myself. 

Still the government was so partial to the consistory 
and the minister, that l was not even directly informed 
of having gained my cause. The very people against 
whom I had petitioned, were the only ones who received 
the above decision and directions. 

This incident had the good effect to rid me of all 
further trouble. In fact, I had afterwards not a single 
disagreeable experience with any minister, and since 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 129 



my social position on the whole was so very satisfactory, 
I had no right to complain of suffering, personally, 
from unjust laws and regulations and prejudices con- 
cerning teachers. Still, from principle, I continued 
to side with the teachers whenever there was an occa- 
sion for showing one's sentiments and views. 

From what T have said, it is apparent that my situ- 
ation was one that might he envied by many of my 
colleagues, and it would not be difficult for me to add 
some more remarks which would prove that my lot 
was really — outwardly — a very, very happy one. And 
yet within five years this happiness became an intoler- 
able burden to me and was mingled with the bitterest 
grief and mental agony. It will perhaps be impossi- 
ble fully to describe and to explain this, still I will 
make an attempt at doing so. 

During the first summer that I taught gymnastics 
at the college, I found that many students were much 
more skilful than I, for I had never been taught by 
any one, and had practised but little by myself after 
having sought information from books. Moreover I 
was hardly older than some of the students. I found 
it, therefore, hard to be useful to the scholars, as well 
as to retain the relation of superiority which a teacher 
always ought to maintain. 

Thus I felt the necessity of perfecting myself in 
gymnastics, and consequently I took a leave of absence, 
9 



130 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



and went to the capital where I received permission 
to practise with the subaltern officers of the garrison. 
This happened just at the time when gymnastics were 
the favorite and most flourishing part of martial train- 
ing, and my stay there produced the desired effect. 
Practising for six weeks, every day four or five hours, 
gymnastics, fencing, bayonet-fighting and common 
evolutions, I became much more expert in these 
matters. 

At the same time, however, I had an opportunity 
to see human life under a new aspect. In the after- 
noon and evening I frequented several circles of 
military and literary men, into which the lieutenant 
who was my teacher, introduced me. I will not say 
that I met there persons who weakened my faith in 
human goodness and virtue, still I associated, more 
than ever before, with people who had not a very 
exalted idea of man's destiny and man's duties, but 
made great demands on life as a source of enjoyment. 

Thus, I think, I returned home a better teacher of 
gymnastics but also, more than ever before, inclined 
to aspire to obtaining worldly treasures, honor, fame, 
rank, money — though, the latter not for its own sake, 
but only as a means of enjoyment. 

During the following summer, I did not yet succeed 
in teaching gymnastics entirely to my satisfaction. 
I told, therefore, the director of the college that I 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



131 



must see other large institutions for this branch of 
education, so as to know where the secret was of ruling 
and guiding a large number of boys who were scat- 
tered over a large place and practising at many dif- 
ferent instruments at the same time and thus escaping 
the teacher's immediate notice. 

The director who was always a most kind patron 
and friend to me, offered, if possible, to procure for 
me the " nervus rei " as he called it, and although I 
departed before he could do so, he really handed me 
on my return, after an absence of six weeks, a sum of 
money which almost reimbursed me for my expenses ; 
it was a present, solicited and received from the Grand- 
duke. 

During my journey, I visited Bremen, Hanover, 
Brunswick, Magdeburg, Dessau, Berlin, Leipsic and 
Dresden. I saw the gymnasiums of the different places, 
and was exceedingly interested in the arrangement, 
management and working of some of these institu- 
tions. In Berlin, I visited the place where Jahn, the 
father of gymnastics, had trained the youths of the 
city and of the university to become strong and bold 
defenders of their fatherland, against the invading 
foe, against the victorious French. 

This place was now laid out in beautiful terraces, 
filled with a gymnastic apparatus of every description 
and variety where eight hundred youths practised, all 



132 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



dressed in the " Turner's " costume — white pantaloons, 
and white, or bluejackets. 

In several of the places I visited, I was disappointed, 
finding the teachers of gymnastics to be persons of 
no culture or refinement, and the exercises to be con- 
ducted without any order or propriety. Thus I had 
the consolation to find out that my own unpleasant 
experience was not a solitary fact, but a general one ; 
that it was either natural and unavoidable, or that 
there was a flaw in the system. 

I was fully satisfied only in one place viz. in Dessau, 
in the gymnastic and orthopaedic Institute of Pro- 
fessor Werner. And this Institute was decried by the 
Turners in general as a humbug. It is true, there 
was much show ; still, while dancing and conversing 
with the young ladies there, I was convinced that Mr. 
W. had produced wonderful cures of deformities. 
And during the daily exercises and performances the 
strictest order was enforced, and beauty and grace 
were the end in view rather than mere force. During 
the present civilized age, I think the latter ought 
never to be tolerated when being rude and brutal, but 
always ought to be combined with the former. 

During my journey, I did not turn my attention 
exclusively to my principal object. I tried to see and 
to learn as much as possible of life in its various 
aspects and phases. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 133 



Wherever I stopped I went to the opera, to the 
theatre, to concerts, to museums, to dancing halls and 
other places of amusement for the higher and lower 
classes of society. In Berlin, I made it my particular 
object to become familiar with the life and pursuits 
of university students. Some of my friends were 
studying there at the time ; I went with them to their 
lectures, and heard Neander, Mitscherlich and other 
celebrated men. I entered fully into the students' 
mode of spending and enjoying their leisure time, 
and as the students in Berlin were said to be rather 
sober and hardworking, compared with those of most 
other German universities, I was confirmed in my 
opinion, first, that the German universities afford an 
opportunity of hearing the most erudite men in the 
world ; secondly, that the regulations of the univer- 
sity, however, do not make it easy for, and incumbent 
on the students to derive full benefit from these 
facilities ; thirdly, that very many students spend their 
three or four years very unprofitably at the university 
as to advancement in book-learning and thorough 
scientific education ; fourthly, that it is altogether a 
false notion to make a stay at a university the cri- 
terion of a man's moral, intellectual, social, politic 
and civic worth. 

In Berlin, I also went to see Diesterweg to whom I 
gained access by a letter of introduction. 



134 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



D. was, at that time, one of the most celebrated 
men in the department of education, and I rejoiced 
in seeing and examining the Seminary and model 
school which were under his direction. 

One of the most important incidents of my journey 
was the last meeting of the " friends of light " which 
I attended in Dessau. Some time before, Johannes 
Kongo had stirred up the general interest in religious 
matters by his attacks upon the Jesuits, upon the 
pilgrimages to the wonderworking seamless coat of 
Christ at Treves &c. I do not know whether he was 
not capable, or not worthy of being leader of a new 
religious sect, or whether the impediments which the 
governments placed in the way of his followers, were 
sufficient to kill the flower in the bud ; the fact is, the 
new German catholic congregations soon decreased in 
number, size and internal life. Still, I think Konge's 
movement bore a share in producing, or at least in 
eliciting a greater interest in religion among the 
protest ants. 

In and about Magdeburg especially, several liberal 
ministers and literary men began publicly to deliver 
speeches on religious subjects. This was done outside 
of the church — taking this word as well in the mean- 
ing of " edifice " as of " institution. " The meetings 
were generally held at the different railway stations 
where the beautiful and spacious halls of the usually 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 135 



splendid depots afforded a convenient place, easy of 
access. The tendency of all the speeches was as well 
to induce the people to free themselves from the 
cramping fetters of an established church, as to free 
themselves from the fetters of a creed which could no 
longer satisfy the minds and consciences of an enlight- 
ened age and of an enlightened nation. 

This was certainly the tendency, though on the 
other hand everything was conducted with great pro?- 
priety and loyalty. I am convinced, there were many 
men engaged in this movement who sincerely believed 
they had hit upon the right means of making their 
fellow-men wiser and better — more religious. 

The different governments, however, could not look 
with indifference upon the existence of the societies 
of these " friends of light " and upon their rapid 
extension and propaganda. They forbade these meet- 
ings in one state after another. The duke of Dessau 
was the last to put in his veto, and thus the people of 
the surrounding states flocked several times together 
on his territory. But in the meeting at which I was 
present, it was known, that that would be the last one 
they should be allowed to hold. Thus an indescribable 
sorrow and gloom pervaded the whole assembly and 
its proceedings. 

Personally, I concurred in the liberal views and 
iieterodox opinions which all the speakers expressed, 



136 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



but at that time I could not make up my mind to 
believe that the common people were prepared for 
seeing pulled down the whole structure of time- 
hallowed creeds and institutions. Still, I could not 
help thinking that the German people were not to be 
blamed if they kept aloof from religion as it was 
forced upon them. I felt sure that I admired Frederic 
the Great, the friend of Voltaire, more than his 
" pious 93 descendant Frederic William IV, were it only 
for that word of his " Let every one become blessed 
after his own fashion. 99 

The assembly dispersed quietly and orderly with a 
sad farewell, and I was more than ever convinced that 
religion and true piety could not be expected to flourish 
where state and church are united, where the heads 
and the officials and the sycophants of the two recipro- 
cally abet and aid each other in using and abusing 
the people as a means of promoting their own worldly 
interests. 

Another incident occurred in Dessau which very 
forcibly led me to think of my own state of mind and 
character. One morning, while taking a walk in the 
suburbs, I noticed a building, which, according to an 
inscription, was a school for poor and neglected chil- 
dren. I walked in, and being introduced to the director, 
I asked permission from him to see the institution. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 137 



I found him to be a very affable man and a true- 
hearted imitator and follower of Pestalozzi. 

He politely showed me the different parts of the 
institution. By entreaty and persuasion he had 
gathered together about two hundred poor children. 
He taught them not only all the branches of a com- 
mon school education, but he gave the older boys an 
opportunity to learn any trade they had a particular 
liking for ; he let the girls learn whatever was practi- 
cally useful for them, housework, sewing &c, and the 
smaller children were employed, a few hours daily, in 
assorting rags, bones, broken glass &c. Each one 
thus contributed a little to supporting the institution ; 
yea, it was almost entirely supported by itself. The 
children were allowed to sleep at home, and I was 
told the instances were not rare, where it was evident 
that they had a good influence at home and had dif- 
fused a better spirit through a whole family. 

I met in the institution four young men who took 
a part in the labors of teaching &c. They were vol- 
unteers ; they had come from different parts of Ger- 
many to make themselves acquainted with the working 
of the system of this school, and then, probably, to 
transplant it into their native places. I could not help 
asking myself whether I would be willing to do the 
same, and was obliged to confess that I was not hum- 



138 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



ble and good enough to sacrifice my actual position to 
such an undertaking. 

This thought overpowered and confused me so much 
that on taking leave of the director aud expressing 
my admiration, I added, " I hope this visit will do me 
good." He smiled and dismissed me with kind wishes. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 139 



CHAPTER VIII. 

EARLY MANHOOD. THIRD PERIOD. 

The state of mind I have alluded to, developed 
itself more and more after my return home. The 
greater number of the girls I taught, belonged to the 
poorer classes, and I found that teaching them became 
more and more a burden to me, so that I disliked to 
have this duty for the principal part of my business. 
Certainly, therefore, I should have been much less 
willing to dedicate myself entirely to teaching these 
children. 

If I should say how this dislike could spring up and 
grow in me, I believe an explanation may be found in 
the following circumstances. Though I might believe 
in the existence of a God, still this belief was no prac- 
tical faith. My mind was biased and was bent rather 
upon denying and combatting those parts of our reli- 
gion and creed which I believed to be erroneous, than to 
be satisfied with the simple, essential, and incontestable 
part of the Christian religion. I could not, therefore, 
believe that God had destined me to remaining in the 
station I held, and could not in humility perform my 
duties as a labor made easy by love and obedience to 
God. Nor did love to man enter into my character 



140 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



in such a way as to be a motive for self-sacrificing 
charity. 

I loved those that loved me, and did good to them 
whenever I could do so without encountering any par- 
ticular difficulty. About the remainder of society, at 
least considering them as individuals, I concerned my- 
self very little. 

Worldly considerations there were none that could 
attach me more strongly to my principal business. Its 
pecuniary advantages were very small ; by teaching 
one hour gymnastics I earned more than by teaching 
school a whole day. Since my education had been 
better than that of most of the primary teachers, I 
considered myself worthy of teaching other branches 
than the common ones. With the parents of my 
scholars I had hardly any intercourse and connection ; 
I mingled in society with a class of persons who looked 
down upon most of those people as their inferiors, and 
in this social position I maintained myself, therefore, 
in spite of my official position. 

When I became fully aware of this condition, I 
resolved upon extricating myself from such a dilemma 
by giving up school teaching, and by dedicating myself 
entirely to gymnastics. This branch began to be so 
popular in the country that it seemed to open to me 
a career satisfactory in a two-fold aspect. First, I 
might expect such worldly rewards from it as I then 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



141 



aspired to obtain ; secondly, I looked upon gymnastics 
with more trust as to their usefulness and efficiency 
than upon any other branch of education. 

However, when I revealed my intention to my 
parents, I met wdth such decided opposition that I felt 
obliged to give up this idea. 

Thus I went on plodding in the usual way, without 
being with heart and soul engaged in the most impor- 
tant part of my work. No observer could be aware of 
this fact, because I performed my duties with the utmost 
punctuality, more so than several of the other teachers 
with whom I was connected. Yea, I did more. Once 
when one of our teachers, my particular friend, was 
dangerously sick, I united his scholars with mine, and 
thus I taught one hundred and forty children for three 
months without asking any of the other teachers to 
aid me. 

Since my mind was not absorbed in my daily busi- 
ness, it turned itself to other objects. Though, as I 
said, my actions were not prompted by charity to indi- 
viduals, by a practical philanthropy, still the objects I 
chose, pertained to philanthropy in the abstract, in 
theory. I succeeded in most of them ; if not always 
in the form, at least in the substance viz. as far as 
they had not been prompted by really selfish motives. 

For instance, I published an article endeavoring to 
show that singing ought not to be the prerogative of 



142 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



the higher classes, as it was then and there ; but that 
the burghers and even the journey-men (Gesellen) 
ought to have their glee-clubs. 

A few days after, a gentleman called on me, saying, 
a number of citizens had resolved upon following my 
advice ; he asked me to join the glee-club they were 
ahout to form. Sometime afterwards the journeymen 
also formed a singing society of their own. If I had 
had some expectation of being called upon to act as 
leader of these societies, I was disappointed in this 
respect ; a man older and more experienced than I, 
was chosen. 

At another time, I published anonymously an arti- 
cle showing the'necessity of controlling the organ-grind- 
ers, in regard to the songs they brought before the 
public. A few weeks later the government issued a law 
enjoining upon the magistrates not to allow the organ- 
grinders &c. to bring any immoral songs and pictures 
before the public. 

When the different glee-clubs in the city and in the 
country were firmly established, I proposed to them to 
meet once every year, for a grand festival. I offered 
to be a medium for interchanging the songs which 
each society would like to have sung by all the others. 
I am not sure that I sought personal aggrandizement by 
this measure, since it seemed to be a necessary practi- 
cal expedient, and I do not feel obliged to accuse my- 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 143 



self of ambition. Still I was violently attacked upon 
this ground by some anonymous writer, apparently a 
secret enemy, and I bad to fight a literary feud. It 
was quite an ordeal for me, but on the whole it did 
me good in every respect. My proposals were not 
passed by unheeded. Another gentleman took up the 
affair, declaring to me that he acted upon hints received 
from me, and the following summer we celebrated, 
with great success, our first annual singers' festival. 

When I saw Diesterweg in Berlin, he was very enthu- 
siastic about preparing and causing all over Germany 
a grand celebration of the centennial anniversary of 
Pestalozzi's birth-day. 

He asked me to work for it at home. Accordingly 
I invited some teachers to meet for a consultation. We 
agreed upon the necessary expedients, and the result 
of our exertions was most gratifying. The teachers 
of the whole province responded to our invitation and 
met in full numbers on the appointed day. We had 
not invited any ministers, even not the teachers of the 
college who were men educated at a university. Thus 
entire harmony, equality, freedom and conviviality 
reigned during our festival which began with speeches, 
poems, discussions and singing, and ended with a din- 
ner which was enlivened by appropriate toasts aud 
refreshing, unreserved conversation. The fruit of this 
festival was the formation of teachers* conferences viz. 



144 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



monthly meetings 'of the teachers of several small 
districts, and annual meetings of the teachers of the 
whole province. 

I had the pleasure of witnessing, for a few years, 
the beneficent results of these institutions, and later, 
I have had friendly greetings from them sent over to 
me across the ocean. 

If I was thus partly engaged in unwelcome duties 
and partly in self-chosen and welcome labors, still I 
had plenty of time left to employ for some other pur- 
pose, and this time I did employ most fully and assid- 
uously in — worldly enjoyments. Before dinner, I went, 
as others did, to a club to " sharpen one's appetite," 
to hear the news, to pass away the time. On those 
afternoons which were free from school-duties, I went 
to some coffee garden outside of the city where play- 
ing ninepins was the usual amusement. In the eve- 
ning I went, once every week, or every fortnight, to 
the " aristocratic " glee-club, once to the burghers' 
glee-club, once to a singing society for ladies and gen- 
tlemen, once to the glee-club which I had formed while 
living with my parents. 

On those evenings which brought nothing particular, 
I went to a club where we conversed and drank, and 
played cards and lotto ; or I passed the evening with 
some friends at home over a glass of beer, or wine, or 
a bowl of punch. I was a member of three different 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 145 



dancing societies or casinos, the aristocratic, the citi- 
zens', and the young men's casino. 

These societies had monthly festivities, and thus I 
danced on three Sunday evenings, every month. Be- 
sides I went to almost all the balls which were arranged 
on other days, on some particular occasion. 

Thus days, months and years of my life passed 
away — apparently the most delightful source of activ- 
ity and happiness, and yet in fact only a whirl, a 
constant change of burdensome duties and of a round 
of enjoyments and gaieties. The latter seemed to be 
the only means of appeasing the soul's longing for 
something to interest itself in. When I, sometimes 
during a conversation with my parents, hinted at this 
unsatisfactory state of things, my mother always 
recommended to me, as she believed, a panacea by 
advising me to take a situation as teacher and organist 
in the country, to get married and thus quietly to 
settle down. But I would not listen to such an advice. 
I would not leave the city again. And while in the 
city I could not think of getting married. I was not 
willing to deny myself the worldly enjoyments for 
which I was then, as a single person, fully able to pay, 
but which I could not have afforded in married life. 
Moreover, any of the ladies with whom I associated, 
and who then considered me as their equal, would 
hardly have been willing to descend into the station 
10 



146 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



of a primary teacher's wife. And to marry any one 
who would have seemed inferior to these ladies — this 
idea was too revolting to me, seriously to occupy my 
thoughts. 

Fortunately an event happened which brought to a 
close (or at least to a crisis) this dangerous state of 
wavering between moral and spiritual life and death. 
Like a thunderbolt the news of the French revolution 
(Feb. 1848) burst upon our quiet and peaceful lives. 

It produced in me, as well as in others, an enthu- 
siasm, almost a delirium, such as I had never experi- 
enced and witnessed before. Nor do I think that I 
should be able ever to experience such a feeling 
again ; it was too beautiful, too intense 'to bless a man's 
life more than once. Truly if it is as poets say, that 
man can love only once, it is no less certain that such 
a patriotic enthusiasm never can be rekindled when it 
has died away. And alas ! the flames which the 
French revolution in '48 kindled in so many hearts, 
were extinguished so very, very soon ! 

However, if the events of that Spring afterwards 
seemed to be but a pleasant fleeting dream; at the 
time, at least, they were as intense a reality as any- 
thing can be. To me they were for a short time 
identified with life itself, because they opened to me 
a new world, or rather a new era into which the thirst- 
ing soul could look with new hopes of universal regen 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 147 



oration and of finding a stay and contents for an 
individual life, full of meaning and utility. 

I must not attempt to give an outline of the 
events of that time in general. We, in our remote 
part of Germany, could take only a general, sympa- 
thizing interest in the general affairs of Europe, or 
even of our fatherland ; but we had besides enough to 
do — practically, in our own state. Though our gov- 
ernment had not treated its subjects quite so badly as 
many others in Germany had done, still, this was only 
the consequence of the Grand-duke's forbearance and 
of other accidental circumstances. 

Our civil rights had not been established; we had 
no guarantee for being governed with justice and 
equity. The sovereigns of Germany had promised 
their subjects a constitution when the nation had so 
heroically risen to free the country from Napoleon's 
dominion. But the Grand-dukes of Oldenburg had 
not fulfilled that promise ; they had not even given a 
mock constitution as most other German sovereigns 
had done. We had no jury, no freedom of the press, 
no militia. We were not allowed to hold meetings of 
any kind without permission from government officers. 
No parish, or county business could be transacted; 
no institutions could be carried on by the people them- 
selves without the supervision and interference of the 
government. 



148 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



The sovereign gave no account of the use he made 
of the taxes which were, moreover, imposed and col- 
lected without the people's consent ; nohody knew how 
much of the public revenues was used for government 
purposes, and how much for the Grand-duke's own 
court. 

All this flashed upon the minds of the people as 
soon as the French revolution gave an impulse to 
political discussion and activity. And as our govern- 
ment, as well as the others, seemed to he paralyzed, 
we felt entirely free to follow the impetus of the 
moment. The town in which I lived, was the foremost 
in the movement. 

From one of the mass meetings we held, we sent a 
deputation of five citizens to the Grand-duke to peti- 
tion for a constitution. We requested them to send 
word if the Grand-duke did not yield, and we would 
come at a minute's warning to support their petition 
by the threats, and if need be, by the use of arms. 

The Grand-duke yielded, and, I think, in better 
faith than most of the other sovereigns, for we had 
very soon almost all we wished for at the moment. 
A legislature was chosen on tolerably liberal princi- 
ples ; it framed a constitution, and the Grand-duke 
accepted the same, though it granted, perhaps, more 
to the people than any other limited monarchy on the 
continent. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 149 



In all the movements which accompanied and im- 
mediately followed this great change, I took an intense 
interest and as active a part as circumstances allowed. 
I cannot tell with what sanguine hopes I advocated 
and assisted the formation of a burgher-guard, or 
opened and recommenced in the Spring the military 
and gymnastic exercises of the college students, or 
tried to do some good by speaking in public meetings 
and by writing for the press. And when the legis- 
lature had almost finished its general work and was 
expected soon to deliberate about special laws and 
institutions, there were new incentives for hopeful 
activity. 

I engaged in bringing about a general conference 
of the primary teachers of our province where the 
future organization of the schools was discussed. A 
committee was chosen to draft a sketch of a " school- 
law and to send it with a petition to the legislature. 
I acted as secretary and was busy day and night, until 
the matter had been discussed, indicted, accepted, 
signed by the whole body, and dispatched to the legis- 
lature. 

While being thus concerned about the institutions 
of my native state, I watched as most others did, the 
progress of national affairs with the intensest interest. 
We believed our most sanguine hopes would be realized. 
At national and provincial singing festivals we had so 



150 



TIIE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



often sung our beautiful national hymn : " what is 
the German's fatherland"? We believed that this 
question would now be answered in a satisfactory 
manner; that Germany would be one in fact and not 
only in name ; that it would be harmonious and free 
within and respected abroad, its national flag " black, 
red and gold" being admitted, recognized and saluted 
on all the oceans of the globe. Alas ! how cruelly 
were such hopes deceived ! The Parliament in Frank- 
fort talked while they ought to have acted, and soon 
all prospects of national greatness, unity, freedom 
and honor were lost, buried under the political, if not 
the moral ruin of the popular and truly democratic 
movement. 

The governments awoke from the lethargy into 
which fear and momentary impotence had thrown 
them, and either guided by base love of tyranny, 
or deluded by a blind belief in their own rights and 
usefulness, they drew the reins of law and violence 
tighter than ever before, and crushed the national 
movement. And very soon, when the "reaction" felt 
its own strength, the new liberal institutions of the 
single states were also abolished, or at least greatly 
modified. In my native state the constitution was 
revised, and robbed of many of its best features ; and 
the special laws we had expected, were either given up, 
or appeared mangled and curtailed. The people and 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



151 



their leaders made all this easy for the governments. 
The masses, on the whole, showed no energy, and in 
the few instances where they did show their strength, 
there it ended in deeds of violence and cruelty against 
the life and property of their oppressors, and some- 
times even of innocent persons. 

The leaders of the democratic party were not all 
pure patriots ; many tried to use the masses merely 
as a pedestal for their own aggrandizement. The 
well-meaning and virtuous among the people and its 
leaders, were either too slow to move and to act at 
the right time, or too trustful, hoping that the govern- 
ments and everybody else would now do right with- 
out being watched, urged, or subdued, as if all on a 
sudden the time had come when the lion and the 
lamb would peacefully lie down together. If there 
were any men who were free from all selfishness, and 
had at the same time a large heart and a clear head, 
they .were either crashed by the pressure from above 
and from below, or their efforts were at least fruitless, 
because they were isolated and badly supported. 

I do not mention these sad occurrences and experi- 
ences, for the sake of blaming others, and of complain- 
ing about the ignorance, perverseness and meanness 
of individuals, or of the masses. No man has a right 
to complain of others, until he has exhausted all the 
means for guiding and improving them, that are at 



152 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



his command. When a man sees that the leaders of 
the people are not wise, or virtuous enough to carry 
their fellow-citizens to the goal of liberty, justice and 
prosperity, then he ought to aspire to being leader 
himself, if he will deserve the name of a true patriot. 
He ought not to give up struggling for such a posi- 
tion, as long as there is a breath of life in him, and 
he may be sure, if he is the man, if he is wise, coura- 
geous and sincere — then he will be the chief, and he 
will lead his people gloriously, through all difficulties 
and dangers, to the goal before them — if it is God's 
will. 

If a man fails in any undertaking, though he 
thinks he has acted prudently and has used all the 
means he could use, then let him be sure of this thing : 
he has failed either because his undertaking was not 
in accordance with God's plan for the universe, for the 
earth, for the human race, for the destiny of individ- 
uals, or because the undertaking was intended to pro- 
mote some selfish end. Accordance with God's will 
and absence of egoism, these are the two things which 
make a man infallible and sure of success ; within the 
sphere prescribed by these limits, he is christlike, god- 
like — almighty. He may lose his life in the cause 
he struggles for, but his death will be the victory of 
his cause; the individual may perish, but the spirit 
will live ; short-sighted mortal witnesses may deem 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 153 



such a hero and martyr unfortunate and his attempts 
a failure ; but future ages and their history will un- 
fold the secret and testify to his success. 

This truth we find verified in the history of the 
heroes and martyrs of all ages — and in no instance 
more strikingly, more divinely true than in the histo- 
ry of the founder of our religion. 

At the time of which I have been writing, this 
truth had never been clearly brought home to my 
mind, and there was not a vestige of such a genuine 
heroism in me. No wonder, therefore, that I then 
thought I had a right to complain of others, to grieve 
about the mistakes and crimes that were committed, 
to be discouraged by the sorrowful and miserable end 
of a political and social revolution which seemed so 
bright and promising in the beginning. 

The last tie which had retained me in a worthy and 
ennobling union with my fellow-men, began to loosen ; 
the last star which had shone in the firmament of my 
moral and spiritual world, faded away, and all around 
me became darkness and utter ruin. 

For the sake of merely making a living, I could 
not continue my business ; or with other words, my 
maxim was not that which Werner advocates in his 
letter to Wilhem Meister : " Perform your business, 
make money, enjoy yourself with your kindred, and 
concern yourself about the remainder of the world no 



154 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



more than as far as you can make it subservient to 
your own advantage.' 7 

On the one hand teaching seemed, therefore, to me 
too hard a business to undertake it for so mean an 
object. 

And really it began to be harder and harder for me. 
I would not give up being punctual and faithful ; still 
I could not interest myself in the duty of the hour, 
and consequently could not interest my scholars, so 
that it was hard for me to make them progress in 
their studies, and without rigorous measures to keep 
them in as strict obedience and order as I wished to. 
On the other hand teaching seemed to me too noble a 
task to be undertaken without an inward calling, 
without faith, without love. This love of children, 
love of individuals on the whole which is so necessary 
for a teacher — I was destitute of it ; I knew I was 
destitute of it, and I knew, therefore, that I could 
not be successful and happy as a teacher. 

My love to mankind in general, my faith in its 
worthiness of being cared for, had been shaken. I 
know I did not lose my faith in the perfectibility of 
mankind. I recollect I spoke one day of the causes 
which made the revolution of that epoch a failure. I 
said it would take a long time to prepare the nations 
of Europe for a republican government ; education 
ought first to dispel ignorance and immorality. A 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 155 

friend replied to this : " Thus you think that we 
teachers are the real revolutionists of the future?" 
1 replied in the affirmative. Still I did not feel the 
mental and moral capacity in me, to do a great work 
as a teacher, and I was not self-sacrificing enough 
willingly to be a humble member of that noble band 
of revolutionists, to resolve upon a life of toil and 
resignation, and yet to be insignificant, to disappear 
like a drop of water in the Ocean. 

My religion was at that time purely negative in its 
influence upon my actions. I believed in God's 
supremacy over the world and mankind, so far that I 
considered it man's duty to look upon his life as a 
gift from God, which he had no right wilfully to 
give up. Consequently I never was in danger of de- 
termining upon suicide as the means of ridding my- 
self of my earthly existence, though during that 
gloomy period, life seemed to me a riddle, or perhaps 
a thing without meaning, yea, an intolerable burden. 

I went even further in the path of duty. I 
acknowledged to myself that man had no right to do 
evil, and ought not, therefore, to harm any of his fel- 
low creatures. But I settled down into a state of 
mind which enforced no other religious or moral obli- 
gations. I looked upon the world as an institution, 
which for aught I knew, might be ruled on a fixed 
plan by a supreme intellect, but where minor human 



156 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



affairs certainly were ruled by mere superiority of 
intellect. 

At that time I suppose I had no clear idea of the 
practical difference between faith, belief, and creed. 
Otherwise I could not have dared to do what I did 
during the last public examination I participated in, 
at the school where I taught. When I reviewed the 
religious instruction I had given to my class, I ven- 
tured publicly to affirm that the " spirit " (or intellect 
rather than faith) was the victory which overcometh 
the world. 

I will not dwell upon the mental agony which I 
endured during that period where outward reality and 
inward conviction most flagrantly contrasted with each 
other; where one feeling of duty urged me in one, 
and another in another direction ; where conflicting 
feelings prompted me to wish for a change, and then 
again for the permanency of actual circumstances. 
For some time I tried to reconcile myself to my condi- 
tion, but it was in vain. My duties became more and 
more burdensome to me ; every day I counted the 
hours and minutes which my duties required me to 
spend in teaching, and wished every evening the last 
minute would come. 

I sought gay society for the sake of losing myself 
and of escaping from the tantalizing consciousness of 
an unwelcome slavery. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 157 

At last, however, this state began to be really insup- 
portable, and after a long inward struggle I burst 
my bonds, and resolved upon leaving off teaching at 
all hazards. I had no definite idea of what I should 
do, after that. I only knew I would not be a teacher 
for merely worldly ends, and I was not and thought I 
could not be a teacher with philanthropic, charitable 
and self-sacrificing views and feelings, so that I thought 
I could neither submit to being a teacher, nor dare to 
be one. 

I cannot express my state of mind in any better 
way, than by saying that I resolved upon making a 
compromise with the human race, with the outside 
world, and with its Creator. I would patiently bear 
the burden of life ; I would spend it in a harmless 
way ; would not require and claim from others any- 
thing except the mere permission to exist, but would 
also not allow anybody to require anything from me 
except noninterference. Thus I disclaimed all human 
and social rights and duties. 

The causes which urged me into such a resolution, 
were so weighty, and I had considered the matter so 
seriously, that my determination could not be shaken 
by any influence, that was brought to bear upon it 
and to work against it, as soon as I made it known to 
others. My parents tried to persuade me to remain 
in my situation, by counting up all the outward 



158 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



advantages I derived from it, but I told them these 
were just what I did not wish for; I would not abuse, 
for worldly purposes, the business of training dozens 
and hundreds of intellects and hearts without having 
myself a heart for them. 

Further, my mother's advice of settling in the 
country I could not heed, though now for reasons 
differing from former ones. I was now willing to 
give up city life and city enjoyments, but I was not 
willing to give them up, and yet to continue teaching. 
My eldest sister warned me not to grieve our parents 
by giving up the future they had augured for me ; 
but I told her our parents would not require me to 
be unhappy all my life, merely for the sake of not 
acting contrary to their wishes and expectations; they 
would rather see me made happy by following my own 
convictions, than sure of being unhappy by following 
theirs. 

There were very few other friends to whom I com- 
municated my resolution at this stage of its develop- 
ment, for I found very soon that it was of no use to 
do so. It was too difficult to make any one fully 
understand the inward necessity which forced me into 
this resolution without revealing to them my whole 
mode of thinking and feeling. And this I did not 
like to do, because I thought it could not do anybody 
any good, and might do harm to some. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



159 



For the sake of carrying out my views and plans I 
had now to choose some employment which would 
afford me the means of existence, without laying upon 
me any other duty, hut that of honesty, especially 
without engaging me in any labor directly tending 
to the intellectual, or moral improvement of man- 
kind. But here many difficulties arose in my path. 

The laws and customs of my native country make 
it very difficult for any one to change his place of 
residence, and still more difficult to change his occupa- 
tion. All professions and trades must be learned in 
a regular way by going through a prescribed course 
of education or training. To become a minister, a 
physician, an apothecary, a surgeon, a veterinarian, a 
lawyer, a civil officer &c, one must have been at 
college and the university, or in some particular 
institution. To become a merchant of any kind, even 
a retail grocer, one must have been apprenticed in 
that business. 

To be allowed to settle as an artisan of any kind, 
one must have been an apprentice, a journey-man, a 
travelling-artisan (for two years) ; one must have 
made a master-piece, and even then it depends upon 
the court's particular opinion whether there is room 
for one, whether to allow him to settle even in his 
native place, and to open a shop for himself. Clerk- 
ships in government offices &c, are usually given to 



160 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



officers and subalterns who wish, or are expected to 
retire from military service. Farming is hardly 
taken up by any one who is not trained for it. The 
law does not really forbid doing so, but makes it very 
difficult, and then public opinion does not think very 
highly of " latin farmers as the country people 
used to call persons of a liberal education who took 
up farming without a previous practical knowledge 
of it. 

On the whole, public opinion was apt to hold in 
low estimation every one, who gave up the occupation 
which he had chosen in his early life, or into which 
he had perhaps been driven in his youth. The only 
business which did not seem peremptorily to require 
a particular training, and which was open to any one, 
was that of keeping a tavern, i. e. not of opening one 
when, and where a person might choose, but of buy- 
ing, or renting one of those hotels, taverns, inns, 
club-houses, or coffee-gardens which the courts might 
allow to exist, (with an occasional permission of 
adding a new one.) Still even here, public opinion 
was in favor of persons who had been for years wait- 
ers in hotels &c. 

With this state of affairs, I found very soon, that 
there was not much hope for me to find another 
occupation. I applied to the government for the 
situation of clerk in the post office in our town, where 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 161 



there was a vacancy just then. This place would not 
have yielded me half of the income which I had at 
that time. It would have made it impossible for me 
to continue my expensive mode of living and of 
enjoying myself. Through this circumstance and 
through its own social inferiority it would probably 
have compelled me to leave the " first and best soci- 
ety/ 7 in which I had moved so far. Still I was wil- 
ling to make such a sacrifice only for the sake of no 
longer having the responsibility of teaching. The 
situation, however, was not given to me ; some one 
was preferred because he had been " trained " in that 
business. 

I met with no better success when I applied for the 
place of auctioneer, which the government advertised 
as being vacant in another province of the state. 
Afterwards I wrote to one of the Grand-duke's coun- 
sellors who knew about me. I asked him to procure 
for me some situation in any government office, what- 
ever it might be, where I might support myself by 
writing. 

This also proved to be of no avail, and I began by 
degrees to become familiar with the idea that I should 
be obliged to leave the country, as I would not con- 
tinue my actual business, and could not find any 
other. 

I knew it would be infinitely more grievous to my 
11 



162 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



parents to see me leave my home and country, than 
to see me change my business, and I was, therefore, 
willing to descend into any station of insignificance 
and inferiority at home, rather than to emigrate. It 
would have been preposterous in me, at my age and 
in my condition, to begin learning a trade according 
to law and custom, but I really made up my mind to 
be an inn-keeper. In a village, a few miles from my 
parents' home, an inn was advertised for sale, or to 
let. The evening before the day appointed for the 
public sale I walked home, and entreated my father 
to consent to my taking that place, and asked him to 
become my security. He would not listen to the 
project, and thus my last hope seemed to be cut off. 
I think at least this was the last expedient I could 
devise. 

It occurs to me I forgot above to mention that 
peddling needed no special training and no other 
permission than a license, and it is really a fact that 
I looked upon a few peddlers with some thoughts .of 
myself, meditating whether I should follow their 
example. But I could not seriously resolve upon 
doing so, because peddling was no regular trade ; it 
was not resorted to except perhaps by half a dozen of 
persons in a whole province, and on account of small 
profits and poor trade, they were obliged to carry so 
large burdens on their backs, that I knew I should 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 163 



not be able to lead such a life from want of strength. 

When I saw that there was no other alternative ; 
that I had either to continue my business, or to 
emigrate, I resolved upon the latter. But truly, I 
did not resolve upon this joyfully or willingly. I 
had never before been conversant with the idea of 
existing and maintaining myself in a doubtful and 
adventurous way ; I had never been reckless or uncon- 
cerned about the future, or courageous enough to 
think of striking out a path for myself, and calmly 
to encounter vicissitudes, dangers and misfortunes. 
Thus I wished, just as little on my own account as on 
that of my parents, to leave my native country. 
Still as I believed to owe it to myself and to the 
world to give up teaching, I could without scruples 
resign to the necessity of emigrating which seemed 
to be the unavoidable consequence of my previous 
determination. 

When this necessity was to my mind a fixed fact, 
I had some difficulty in choosing between several ways 
that were open to me, or rather in finding any way 
that might seem to be practicable. At that time the 
discovery of the gold mines in California was of a 
recent date, and I noticed what effect this news had 
on thousands of minds that were as unsettled as 
mine. Still I was never for a minute tempted to 
join the throng that hastened to the Eldorado. The 



164 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



rapid acquisition of wealth had nothing tempting for 
me; what I wanted and needed was tranquillity and 
peace of mind, and I knew that gold could not give 
that to me. 

Australia was also much talked of, at that time ; 
its gold mines had not yet been discovered, hut it 
seemed to be the most desirable part of the globe, for 
farming purposes. A person could in no way be 
successful there, if he could not rely upon himself 
alone, particularly on his bodily self. This considera- 
tion prevented me from fixing my hopes on the plan 
of going there. 

More seriously I turned my thoughts and desires 
towards the West Indies and South America, where I 
might hope to find some solitary spot, which under 
the benign influence of a mild and propitious climate 
would easily afford me shelter and the means of 
supporting a frugal, simple life. I happened just 
then to read Indiana by George Sand, and I have 
even now a lively recollection of the entire satisfac- 
tion the end of the story gave me, if I except the 
attempt of the lovers to destroy their lives, by throw- 
ing themselves down the precipice. Surely it was 
nothing but want of independence, of courage and of 
self-reliance, that prevented me from going to the 
tropical regions for the sake of leading there the life 
of an anchorite. 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 165 



At last I fixed upon the idea that a person might 
live a solitary life in a large city more easily than 
anywhere else, if he could avoid being engaged in a 
business which would bring him into close relations 
to his fellow-men. I resolved, therefore, upon going 
to the United States, to the land of religious, political, 
social and individual freedom, and to live there, in a 
large city, without forming any more acquaintances, 
than I could help forming ; without taking more 
duties upon me, than I could help taking ; without 
expecting from the world around me anything for my 
enjoyment ; without trying to earn anything beyond 
what was necessary merely to clothe and feed me. 
The best way in which I could attain this end, seemed 
to be the employment of book-keeper ; this would 
not bring me in contact with many persons, and would 
not impose any duty upon me, except regularity, 
exactness and honesty. 

When I had settled the whole affair in my mind, 
I made my intention known wherever I was obliged 
to do so, but I received no approval from any side. 
My parents, it is true, gave up contending against 
my fixed purpose, but their silent grief was more 
eloquent than serious remonstrances would have been. 

When I asked the consistory to dismiss me from 
the State's service without obliging my father, or 
myself to refund to the Seminary a certain sum which 



166 



THE PROBLEM OE LIFE, OR 



was stipulated for such cases, my request was granted, 
and an honoring testimony of dismissal was sent to 
me. Previously to obtaining this, I had corresponded 
with the director of the Seminary concerning this 
matter, and received from him the following private 
letter : 

" My dear Carstens, 

Your letter in which you announce to me your 
intention of leaving the school (i. e. the State's 
service as teacher), has surprised me — not in a pleas- 
ant way — and also our inspector G. whom I informed 
of it yesterday. We both are convinced that the 
scJiool has had an efficient laborer in you, and that it 
would continue to find you such a one, if you would 
remain faithful to it. I must, therefore, really con- 
sider it my duty, once more most seriously to urge 
upon you the question whether you have very care- 
fully considered everything which was to be considered 
in this case. 

As far as I could see into it, you allege as the sole 
motive for your determination, a want of internal 
satisfaction with the efficacy of your labors, or — what 
I suppose to be the same — the consciousness of the 
incapability of realizing an ideal which exists in your 
imagination. It seems to me — allow me to say this 
— you act neither reasonably nor rightly, if by such 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 167 



a feeling — however noble it may be, considered from 
another side — you allow yourself to be induced to 
give up a vocation which, as far as I know, you have 
hitherto discharged to the great satisfaction of your 
superiors and of the parents of your scholars. 

An ideal includes the conception of a perfection 
which needs not to be in actual existence, though it 
may be imagined to exist. But pray, my dear C, to 
what mortal is it granted to realize his ideal ! What 
minister, for instance, could ever laud himself for 
preaching as our Lord Jesus Christ preached, or for 
being such a pastor as St. Paul, or St. John was ! 
Or to take for an example a vocation of a lower 
order : what watchmaker could ever boast of furnish- 
ing, as often as he chose, a watch of an entirely 
faultless motion? Does not also the apostle who 
could congratulate himself upon having worked and 
effected the most, say explicitly : ' Not as though I 
had already attained &c.' ? Now, what would become 
of the world, if every one whom the relative imperfec- 
tion of his labors grieves, would directly give up and 
relinquish, on this account, the business which has 
been allotted to him ? Our activity, if it shall cor- 
respond to the principle of the moral law which is 
founded in the nature of man, must be regulated 
by rules, concerning which we ought to desire that 
they should be the universal maxim of human activ- 



168 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



ity. With great and decided pertinence says, there- 
fore, a noble German poet ; 1 He who has done enough, 
according to the opinion of the noblest of his own age, 
has lived for all ages/ Such a one may certainly be 
satisfied with his own efforts, though he himself may 
feel most strongly that they do not correspond to the 
ideal in his head and heart. 

Herein also lies the truth of the paradox : 1 The 
better Christian, the greater sinner ; ' — because 
nobody is more distant from true Christianity, than 
the self-righteous who is not willing to find himself 
guilty of any sin. 

But why should 1 give you still more examples and 
proofs of a truth which you surely must acknowledge 
yourself? Whether you, therefore, can justify it 
before yourself, before the school, before the children 
who are to be educated, before their parents &c, to 
give up laboring as a teacher, merely on account of 
that feeling of not being satisfied with yourself as 
such, in spite of the consciousness of having satisfied 
competent judges of your labor, of your results — this 
certainly deserves to be weighed very seriously, 
before you carry out your intention. 

Besides, I think I ought also to ask you what your 
good father says to it, for although you are no longer, 
in the common acceptance of the term, under the con- 
trol of parental power, still, just as every son and 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 



169 



daughter whose father is living, you stand in a filial 
relation to him which certainly requires you not to do 
anything by which a father's heart might he grieved, 
or offended, or filled with uneasiness and care. You 
do not mention your father in your letter to me,- 
which, as I must frankly confess, has surprised me a 
little, since I know that he is still living. Nor do 
you say to what vocation you will turn, if you give 
up teaching — which at all events ought to be a call- 
ing of which you would be sure beforehand, that your 
endeavors in it would correspond to the ideal which 
might be formed of it. 

I should be exceedingly rejoiced, if, after another 
revision and investigation of your motives for relin- 
quishing the vocation of teacher, you could look upon 
the affair in another way, and could change the reso- 
lution you have now formed. I cannot imagine that 
you would find any cause for repenting of such an 
inconstancy, if you would like to call it thus. But I 
can very well imagine the opposite. " 

After having given some kind advice about the 
technicalities connected with the request of being 
allowed not to pay the stipulated sum to the Seminary, 
the letter concludes thus : 



170 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



" Although with regret, still I should willingly coun- 
tenance your request, since I should be obliged to 
believe that you could not act differently. But may 
God grant that I need not do it ; — I mean, that you 
take another, a better view of the matter, and that 
we retain you as a co-laborer in the service of the 
schools of our country. With this hope I bid you, 
for the mean time, adieu, and beg you to keep me in 
kind remembrance." 

This letter, however cogent and affecting I felt it to 
be, could not make me waver in my determination. 

From the people with whom I had daily intercourse, 
I had to hear various opinions about myself and about 
my intention of going to America. Some thought 
they were sure I should soon come back; others 
thought I was born to be a teacher ; others believed 
I was too proud any longer to be a teacher ; some sup- 
posed that I had a desire to become rich, and that I 
hoped to attain this end in America. Truly, they all 
knew very little about the state of my mind, or if 
they did, they could not appreciate it. 

The superintendent of the schools told me, I might 
depart, but if I should, within a short time, change 
my mind, I might return ; they would keep the situa- 
tion at my disposal. 

All comfort I had from others, was that several 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 171 



friends expressed a hope I might succeed in America, 
and many thought I could easily make my way in the 
mercantile world. My former teacher of mathemat- 
ics said, I could go West, and be a surveyor, if I could 
find no other employment. My landlady came one 
morning after a ball into my room, and after compli- 
menting me on a speech I had made at table, she 
added, that her husband said, I could not be badly off 
in America ; if I failed in every thing else, I might 
turn to preaching. 

To notice that all other people doubted the necessi- 
ty, or even the wisdom of the step I intended to take, 
was a source of great grief to me, and a thing not 
easily to be borne, but it led me also to a more serious 
investigation, and finally to greater confidence in my- 
self, and to a firmer belief in the necessity of persist- 
ing in my resolution. It was, therefore, the very 
means to make the execution of my plan less grievous 
and difficult to me. 

My departure did not need much preparation. At 
the end of the winter term of our school (March 1849) 
I resigned my situation. I sold my piano and the 
few articles of furniture I had, and thus I procured 
money enough to pay my passage, and to support my- 
self for a month or two in America, if I should not 
find some occupation at once. I also sold my little 
library, not only because I might need the trifling sum, 



172 



THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, OR 



which I knew it would bring, but because I wished to 
get rid of the books, which I thought I should never 
desire again to look at. 

I will not dwell upon the feelings with which, very 
soon after, I parted from niy parents, and from other 
relatives and friends, or as I ought to say perhaps, 
the feelings with which they saw me departing. I 
suppose I have no idea of what my parents suffered. 
As for myself, I might have had cause enough for 
being overpowered by grief, for I knew that I gave up 
a great deal, and did not know what fate I should 
meet with. I did not expect, and could not believe 
that I should ever have the means to return home, if 
I should wish sooner or later to do so, and thus I 
could not hope ever to see my parents and friends 
again upon this earth. Moreover, I had no guarantee 
that I should be able to make my way clear in Amer- 
ica ; I had hardly any acquaintances there, and pos- 
sessed very few practical capacities whereupon to build 
my hopes. 

Still, after all, I must say, that I parted from my 
kindred, my home, and my country, with a heart not 
so heavy as such circumstances would seem to indicate. 
Life had been such a burden to me, that any change 
whatever could not fail to be welcome, and that I had 
fortitude enough to bear up under the pressure of the 
saddening feelings which were awakened within and 



RELIGION AND SOCIETY IN GERMANY. 173 

around me, when I thus exchanged an apparently 
bright reality, against a dark and gloomy future. 

In order to make my narrative complete, I ought 
to add, what I gained, or lost hy this important 
change. A recital of the principal events of the fol- 
lowing nine years of my life, and of their influence on 
my mind, would show in what direction my religious 
views and feelings were developed, as well concern- 
ing the life of an individual as concerning the princi- 
pal denominations of Christians in general. How- 
ever, I cannot attempt such an undertaking at present. 
So much, nevertheless, I know, if it is God's will yet 
to spare my life and strength for sometime, I shall try 
to accomplish this task. 

In the meantime, I will wish that all my readers 
may he graciously preserved from ever falling into 
such a deplorable state of mind as that one by which 
I was driven away from my home and my native 
country. But if God in his wisdom should allow any 
of them to be thus afflicted, I wish them to come out 
of the labyrinth of doubt and sorrow, by a shorter 
and less rugged way than the one I have been obliged 
to travel for nine long, weary years. 



THE END. 



CONTENTS. 

Chap. I. General Remarks on Religion 3 

Chap. II. General Remarks on Religious Sects 24 

Chap. III. Reminiscences of Childhood 35 

Chap. IV. Boyhood 50 

Chap. Y. Youth 69 

Chap. VI. Early Manhood. First Period 96 

Chap. VII. Early Manhood. Second Period 123 

Chap. VIH. Early Manhood, Third Period 139 



/